The holiday season is upon us once more and as we prepare shopping lists for presents, it’s easy to forget the true meaning of gift-giving. The exchange of gifts is a way to do good and make someone else feel good too. But once the presents have been unwrapped, we’re often left nearly penniless and have to cut back on expenses and charitable giving until the next paycheck (or the one after that!).
So wouldn’t it be great if the money we spent on gifts also supported a good cause? That would tick all the boxes: you get a nice present, you make someone happy and you’re contributing to a greater cause – perfect! But how do you do this? That’s where the concept of “buying social” comes in. When you buy social, you’re supporting a social enterprise.
A social enterprise is a business that trades for a social or environmental purpose. It makes a profit, but here’s the twist – it reinvests this profit into the social or environmental mission that it champions. When you buy from a social enterprise you are helping it to do good and supporting a social cause that you affiliate with.
Social enterprises impact a wide array of beneficiaries. The best known social enterprise In the UK is the Big Issue which supports homeless people into employment. In that country, social enterprises are becoming ubiquitous: they sell coffee, fashion and telecoms plans and provide personal loans, career counselling and child support services – all this in order to address social problems and reduce inequalities. As a result, buying social in the UK has become second nature for many – all the bottled water served in the UK Parliament, for instance, is bought from a social enterprise.
In this part of the world though, the concept of social enterprise is still settling in people’s minds so convincing consumers to Buy Social will take effort and time. The first step is to raise awareness. To that end, here are some inspiring examples of social enterprises in our region.
In the Philippines, Messy Bessy produces a line of natural and biodegradable household cleaning products that can be found in numerous stores and markets. This social enterprise also employs and trains disadvantaged youths, so it offers its customers the chance to do good both socially and environmentally.
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Chiang Mai, Thailand, stop by social enterprise café, Akha Ama and enjoy a fresh cup of organic coffee. Akha Ama stocks coffee beans that have been grown sustainably in orchards owned and tended by the Akha people from the upland Thai village of Maejantai. Their beans are also exported and they compete directly with mainstream coffee brands, underscoring the growth potential for social enterprises.