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Putting the “Social” Back in Social Enterprise: An Evidence-Based Approach

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posted on 29.06.2022, 18:06 authored by Reece SteinbergReece Steinberg

Published May 17, 2022 in Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ) https://nonprofitquarterly.org/


Social enterprises are eager to foster a socially-conscious image while making a profit. These businesses are built around the idea that they can make money while also contributing to society. They are not alone: conventional businesses like Amazon and Toyota also strive to project a socially-conscious image. This causes a problem for entrepreneurs who may want to start a truly social business, and socially-conscious consumers. This article introduces a research-based framework that consumers and entrepreneurs can use to evaluate social enterprises. A lack of evidence-based planning is a shortcoming of many enterprises’ social business models. Social ratings systems such as ESG ratings generally evaluate investment risk, rather than rigorously measured social benefits, and certifications like b-corp are weak, their methodology secretive. This research framework can help entrepreneurs to build truly social businesses, and help consumers, journalists, and librarians investigate and evaluate businesses around them, and make evidence-based choices. 

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