Business of business can be community purpose


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The business of business is business.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/06/2018 (1756 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The business of business is business.

That’s what economist Milton Friedman famously argued in 1970 when businesses started to consider their social responsibility.

A lot has changed since then.

Friedman’s theories are still at the heart of the economic policy of most countries in the developed world. But his views on corporate social responsibility don’t ring true today.

Most major businesses have charitable programs dedicated to improving social and environmental problems. In fact, we at Siloam Mission could not do the work we do without the support of the corporate community, for which we are very grateful.

Fortunately for us — and many other charities — using business as a force for good in the world has become a competitive advantage.

Taking it a step further, conscious entrepreneurs the world over have started to create business with the explicit mission to boost a bottom line that includes people, planet and profit.

These social enterprises produce goods and services for the market. Some are organized as for-profits, others as non-profits.

But they all operate as a business. In fact, most of them look, feel and act like a traditional business.

The difference?

They manage their operations and surpluses in pursuit of tackling a serious problem in the world. They measure their performance by a different yardstick.

For a social enterprise, the business of business is not just business. It’s so much more than that.

The business of business is to further a mission and solve a problem: to provide dignified employment to people who are entering the workforce again; to help street-involved young people develop skills they need to enter a trade; or to reduce toxic waste by recycling and upcycling unwanted electronics.

In Manitoba, we already have first-rate examples of what a successful social enterprise can achieve.

Aki Energy works with First Nations to start green businesses in their community, creating local jobs and growing local economies.

BUILD Inc. hires and trains people in Winnipeg’s North End with barriers to employment — such as criminal records, gang involvement, lack of ID, etc. — to insulate low-income houses.

MGR offers energy efficiency retrofits, residential renovations and a service for vulnerable persons who cannot prepare their home for bed-bug treatments.

These are just a few examples of great organizations that provide much-needed goods and service but focus on giving back.

And, speaking of a much-needed service, if you walk or drive by the Millennium Library in downtown Winnipeg right now, you’ll notice a bright public toilet created from shipping containers.

Designed by BridgmanCollaborative and put on by the Downtown Biz, the pop-up toilet is an initiative to make sure everyone downtown has access to basic, necessary amenities.

Siloam Mission’s Building Futures program — made up of community members from our MOST (Mission: Off The Streets Team) and Exit Up program (Indigenous Youth Exiting the Child Welfare system) and who live at the Madison (our long-term supportive housing) — is participating on the social enterprise side of this innovative initiative. Community members are working as attendants for the washrooms, ensuring they are well-maintained and clean.

They’re also running an attached kiosk that includes the sale of several items, including the Winnipeg Free Press.

These are just a few examples of how businesses in Winnipeg are creating dignity and opportunities for our vulnerable population by bringing them into our economy.

All of these social enterprises meet a real need for their customers while also solving a real problem in our province.

At Siloam Mission we are extremely excited and motivated to move further down the path of social enterprise because it aligns with our focus to help community members progress and fulfil their own unique potential.

These initiatives create purpose, generate revenue and aim to post a profit. If you ask me, that’s a net win for all of us.

Jim Bell is the CEO of Siloam Mission.

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