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Business & Social Entrepreneurs Need Partnerships

30 April 2007 at 11:45 am
Staff Reporter
Business has a real opportunity to partner with social and environmental entrepreneurs to help solve global issues, according to a new study.

Staff Reporter | 30 April 2007 at 11:45 am


Business & Social Entrepreneurs Need Partnerships
30 April 2007 at 11:45 am

Business has a real opportunity to partner with social and environmental entrepreneurs to help solve global issues, according to a new study.

The study demonstrates the potential for what has been described as ‘next-generation partnerships’ to impact positively on socio-economic and environmental challenges.

Carried out by SustainAbility, Inc, a leading global consulting firm and think tank, the study explores how business partnerships with this new breed of social entrepreneur offers benefits to both companies and society.

The report called “Growing Opportunity: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Insoluble Problems”, was launched recently at the 2007 Skoll World Forum for Social Entrepreneurship.

Through a quantitative survey of 100 social entrepreneurs from around the world, SustainAbility studied the opportunities and barriers facing these ‘changemakers.’

The report provides specific examples of entrepreneurial approaches to difficult problems with a particular emphasis on the health care and energy sectors. The report also makes recommendations for ensuring the field of social entrepreneurship continues to grow and achieve a disproportionate impact on global challenges.

The survey results demonstrate that entrepreneurs face a variety of limitations, particularly access to capital which was cited by 72% of respondents as a primary challenge. Promotion and marketing of organizations and programs was the second most frequently cited issue (41%), while the third issue was the struggle entrepreneurs faced in developing their organisations with talented professionals who also are passionate about the mission and comfortable with entrepreneurship.

Overwhelmingly, the social entrepreneurs surveyed are interested in working together with business.

In an effort to categorise business’ approach, SustainAbility describes three phases: early engagement often driven by compliance with regulatory requirements (Mindset 1.0), a shift in focus to corporate citizenship, based on transparency and accountability (Mindset 2.0), and – the emerging trend – increased emphasis on linking business growth and profitability to sustainability outcomes (Mindset 3.0).

Chris Elias, President of PATH, told The Forum, that combating socio-economic problems across the world is the daily work of many social entrepreneurs. They enjoy networks and access to places and potential markets where established corporations may lack experience or knowledge.

Elias said that to increase a programs’ scope and scale, however, requires skill sets and finances that many entrepreneurs don’t have, but businesses do.

At PATH they count on government, foundation, corporate and individual donations and partnerships to make a greater impact.:

Linda Fisher, DuPont’s Chief Sustainability Officer, says business has a real opportunity to partner with social and environmental entrepreneurs. Through collaboration, companies can help to solve some of society’s most intractable problems – at the same time they are strengthening their ability to innovate, access new markets and networks, and inspire their employees.

John Elkington, Founder and Chief Entrepreneur of SustainAbility, Inc. says social entrepreneurs question the ways things have ‘always been done.’ By reconsidering how market needs are best met and who the consumers are—and might be, and by being transparent and accountable while rebooting the process of value creation, these people are set to have a profound impact on the world’s most complex societal and environmental challenges. Their impact may be limited by their current scale, but could be limitless with the right business partners.

During the next two years, SustainAbility, Inc., with support from the Skoll Foundation, will further explore best practices for such collaborations, with continued feedback and debate from the relevant parties and sectors. Growing Opportunity: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Insoluble Problems is available at

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