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Some corporations allow you to ‘B’ a social entrepreneur

A new type of entrepreneurial venture is becoming popular in the United States and other countries. Social entrepreneurism is a hybrid between for-profit businesses and not-for-profit social agencies.

As the name suggests, social entrepreneurs are for-profit but have as their mission social, cultural or environmental goals that often are associated with volunteer organizations. Social entrepreneurship is an altruistic form of entrepreneurship that focuses on the benefits the organization provides to society.

Examples of social entrepreneurs vary widely. Forbes Magazine recently featured what it considered the top 30 social entrepreneurs in the world. Included on that last was an optometrist who created a company that sells glasses in developing countries, a company that found a way to manufacture lamps for countries that do not have reliable electricity and a chemist who converts waste into fertilizer for agriculture in developing countries. The list included firms engaged in the health, education, finance and other endeavors.

The successful outdoor clothing store Patagonia promotes itself as an environmentally and socially conscious company. For example, its Warn Wear: Better Than New promotion encourages customers to keep the Patagonia products they own instead of buying new products to “take some of the pressure off the planet.”

Although gaining more notoriety lately, the idea of social entrepreneurism first appeared in the 1960s as a means of promoting social change. The concept of using a for-profit organization to further social causes gained more momentum as a tool for societal improvement in the 1980s and 1990s.

According to Tom Debbink, professor of management at Tiffin University, an organization’s social responsibility has an effect on its employees.

“While empirical studies find inconsistent connections between social responsibility and profitability, there is a consistent, positive connection between social responsibility and increased employee satisfaction based on a variety of measures,” Debbink stated. “Basically, people like working for companies that they perceive as being socially responsible.”

Heidelberg University’s chapter of the student group Enactus is applying these social entrepreneurship concepts to its work with the Sisters of St. Francis in combatting human trafficking.

“To facilitate this effort, the sisters have established a safe house where the women removed from the street can learn how to reintegrate with society and be sheltered from reprisals,” according to Pat McLeod, an adjunct faculty member in the School of Business at Heidelberg.

The social entrepreneurship movement has led to the creation of a new type of certification, the B corporation. This is a private accreditation awarded to for-profit companies by B Lab, a United States-based non-profit organization.

To earn and keep certification, companies must receive a minimum score on an online assessment for social and environmental performance, satisfy the requirement that the company integrate B Lab commitments to stakeholders into company documents and pay an annual fee ranging from $500 to $25,000.

There are more than 1,000 certified B corporations in 33 countries in moer than 60 industries. B Lab says all these firms are working toward trying to redefine success in business. B corporation certification provides benchmarks against which the company can measure its social activities. However, this B Lab certification has no legal status and the evaluation process is not made available to the general public.

The B corporation sometimes is confused with another type of organization called a benefit corporation. A benefit corporation is a for-profit corporate entity, legislated in 28 U.S. states. Ohio has not yet passed benefit corporation legislation.

Benefit corporations are created to create a positive impact on society and the environment in addition to earn a profit for the owners. Benefit corporations differ from traditional corporations in purpose, accountability and transparency, but not in taxation.

In benefit corporations, shareholders evaluate the company based on how the company provides benefits to society and the environment. Shareholders decide whether the organization has made a positive impact. In most states, if it is not meeting those goals, the board has the authority to dissolve the benefit corporation status.

Unlike B corporations, benefit corporations do not go through a certification process and are not audited by a third-party standard. Benefit corporations use third-party standards against which to measure their own performance.

Perry Haan is professor of marketing and entrepreneurship, and former dean of the business school at Tiffin University. He can be reached at or (419) 618-2867.

Some corporations allow you to ‘B’ a social entrepreneur

A new type of entrepreneurial venture is becoming popular in the United States and other countries. Social entrepreneurism is a hybrid between for-profit businesses and not-for-profit social agencies.

As the name suggests, social entrepreneurs are for-profit but have as their mission social, cultural or environmental goals that often are associated with volunteer organizations. Social entrepreneurship is an altruistic form of entrepreneurship that focuses on the benefits the organization provides to society.

Examples of social entrepreneurs vary widely. Forbes Magazine recently featured what it considered the top 30 social entrepreneurs in the world. Included on that last was an optometrist who created a company that sells glasses in developing countries, a company that found a way to manufacture lamps for countries that do not have reliable electricity and a chemist who converts waste into fertilizer for agriculture in developing countries. The list included firms engaged in the health, education, finance and other endeavors.

The successful outdoor clothing store Patagonia promotes itself as an environmentally and socially conscious company. For example, its Warn Wear: Better Than New promotion encourages customers to keep the Patagonia products they own instead of buying new products to “take some of the pressure off the planet.”

Although gaining more notoriety lately, the idea of social entrepreneurism first appeared in the 1960s as a means of promoting social change. The concept of using a for-profit organization to further social causes gained more momentum as a tool for societal improvement in the 1980s and 1990s.

According to Tom Debbink, professor of management at Tiffin University, an organization’s social responsibility has an effect on its employees.

“While empirical studies find inconsistent connections between social responsibility and profitability, there is a consistent, positive connection between social responsibility and increased employee satisfaction based on a variety of measures,” Debbink stated. “Basically, people like working for companies that they perceive as being socially responsible.”

Heidelberg University’s chapter of the student group Enactus is applying these social entrepreneurship concepts to its work with the Sisters of St. Francis in combatting human trafficking.

“To facilitate this effort, the sisters have established a safe house where the women removed from the street can learn how to reintegrate with society and be sheltered from reprisals,” according to Pat McLeod, an adjunct faculty member in the School of Business at Heidelberg.

The social entrepreneurship movement has led to the creation of a new type of certification, the B corporation. This is a private accreditation awarded to for-profit companies by B Lab, a United States-based non-profit organization.

To earn and keep certification, companies must receive a minimum score on an online assessment for social and environmental performance, satisfy the requirement that the company integrate B Lab commitments to stakeholders into company documents and pay an annual fee ranging from $500 to $25,000.

There are more than 1,000 certified B corporations in 33 countries in moer than 60 industries. B Lab says all these firms are working toward trying to redefine success in business. B corporation certification provides benchmarks against which the company can measure its social activities. However, this B Lab certification has no legal status and the evaluation process is not made available to the general public.

The B corporation sometimes is confused with another type of organization called a benefit corporation. A benefit corporation is a for-profit corporate entity, legislated in 28 U.S. states. Ohio has not yet passed benefit corporation legislation.

Benefit corporations are created to create a positive impact on society and the environment in addition to earn a profit for the owners. Benefit corporations differ from traditional corporations in purpose, accountability and transparency, but not in taxation.

In benefit corporations, shareholders evaluate the company based on how the company provides benefits to society and the environment. Shareholders decide whether the organization has made a positive impact. In most states, if it is not meeting those goals, the board has the authority to dissolve the benefit corporation status.

Unlike B corporations, benefit corporations do not go through a certification process and are not audited by a third-party standard. Benefit corporations use third-party standards against which to measure their own performance.

Perry Haan is professor of marketing and entrepreneurship, and former dean of the business school at Tiffin University. He can be reached at or (419) 618-2867.