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social enterprise

The caring conundrum – beyond badges for social enterprise

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At a loss for how to explain what I do for a living, my sister once described my work as “something to do with pyramid schemes and poor people.” I can laugh at it now (the base of the pyramid is an awful phrase for a number of reasons), but the incident highlights how contradictory most people find the combination of capitalism and doing good for the world.

Even when familiar with enterprises that use “capitalism for good”, most people generally call to mind a class of companies that fill a small, though often profitable, niche of eco- or socially-conscious consumers. By in large, growth in those markets is defined by how much you can make people care (about the planet, about people, about pandas).

Green badge: Do Good, Buy Now!

There’s another class of companies, however, who may use green means, but who don’t rely on consumer sentiment about society or the environment to sell their stuff. Among these are many of the companies I have worked with in recent years, where the name of the game has been catalyzing massive new markets, primarily in the so-called base of the economic pyramid. While they used inclusive means to serve poor communities, these companies’ goals were those of growth-seeking, profit-oriented enterprises.

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