The Environmental and Social Sustainability of Social Enterprise by Yuqian Li.
Yuqian Li, MSc in International Management student at Trinity Business School, Trinity College Dublin, takes the social and environmental challenges the world is facing and shows how social enterprise is a key player in providing innovative solutions.
According to Zimmer and Pearson (2018), social entrepreneurship has the ability to make changes on the environment and society all over the world. In order to achieve sustainability, social entreprises such as the profit-based organizations, non-profit organizations and mixed companies adopt newly styled market-oriented approaches to solve environmental and social issues. Due to the fact that society develops over time, the practical issues involved become more complicated regarding the environment, population growth, living conditions, new technology and skills and training for the usage of new technology.
Global warming and climate improvement
Under these circumstances, Buhre (2019) reported that there are various environmental issues to be considered for social entrepreneurs to achieve sustainable businesses all over the world. Based on a survey conducted by the NASA, approximately 73 percent of people from the U.S. held the view that global warming has worsened. As such, the U.S. government has launched new green legislation for climate improvement to strive to reduce the emission of carbon dioxides in the coming years. In addition, people and companies from not only America but also all over the world have decided to make efforts for both protecting the environment and contributing to society, thereby enhancing the importance of environmental and social sustainability of social entrepreneurship.
Population growth, living conditions and new technologies
In addition, Zimmer and Pearson (2018) mentioned that there are also social issues especially regarding the fast population growth around the world which is causing the unemployment rate to rise, an increase in poor living conditions and the way that people use technologies to improve their quality of life. Besides that, another issue is the creation and innovation of new technologies. It is essential for social entrepreneurship to attempt and take the risk to be innovative, no matter which industries they are positioned in. For example, areas such as education, medical care and engineering should be the focus of very high interests on innovation.
Sustainable clean energy and new technologies for an improved transfer of resources
As such, Zimmer and Pearson (2018) assert that social entrepreneurs have the capabilities to generate brilliant new ideas and solutions for the market. For instance, sustainable clean energy such as clean water, solar power and types of new technologies can be used to transfer resources into better usages.
Here are some cases to support the views mentioned above. Initially, Buhre (2019) presented an example of using solar power to provide electricity to the rural areas of Malawi, conducted by social entrepreneurship through innovative equipment and financially supported by the UK government. By committing to the construction of the project, the key objective of the practice was not only to offer techniques but also to enhance the lives of the local citizens. This project changed the living conditions since there were only 2 percent of the people who were able to use electricity and most of the rest in the country had to use traditional fires to generate energy. Thanks to the usage of solar power as a sustainable energy, the young generations begun to establish their own businesses and it also increased the academic performance of the local students.
Furthermore, based on Buhre (2019), United Nations reports showed that there were around 30 to 40 percent of food waste worldwide each year. More seriously, due to the fact that there was a short storage policy for bread in the UK market, about 34 to 44 percent of loaves are thrown away by stores. Hence, another case mentioned by Buhre (2019) introduced a technical recycled beer factory, modelled from a Belgian company and built by an environmental protector in UK through transferring unused and surplus bread into beers. At the same time, the profits from this project were all donated to environmental charity for the purpose of researching waste recycling and supporting training and campaigns.
Moreover, Buhre (2019) cited a case which happened to a traditional island with an ancient fishpond founded 800 years ago in Hawaii. Because of a flood in 1960s, the fishpond was ruined in until a non-profit organization came out to save it. The NGO fed the fish through traditional aquaculture methods in order to achieve sustainability. Meanwhile, the fish were sold on the local market and the fishpond was allowed to open to tourists for fishing purposes. In addition, the NGO cooperated with the local schools and universities to offer internships for students so that they could be trained in the administration of the fish pool.
Social Enterprise: Providing job opportunities and improving living conditions through sustainable technologies
Apart from environmental solutions, there are still various social solutions for social entrepreneurship to accomplish sustainability. Buhre (2019) noted that based on research from the West Virginia University, the unemployment rate for the coal industry of a state in the U.S. increased by 27 percent over the decade from 2005 – the lowest employment rate in the country. Since it was traditional for the local people to feed bees, a non-profit organization offered training programs for the unemployed coal workers to learn how to feed bees in a sustainable manner. By using natural feeding technologies to keep the bees, social entrepreneurs provided job opportunities for the workers and received positive feedback from them since they improved the living conditions of the workers through sustainable technologies.
What’s more, Buhre (2019) also pointed out another social example reported by the CNBC Africa and mentioning the fact that only 16 percent of Rwandan citizens had the capability to access electronic networks even though 60 percent of them possessed mobile phones. Under these conditions, social entrepreneurship in the country begun to generate solutions through offering low-cost sustainable electricity and networks for rural areas. Since the people in the country were not rich, the organization helped them to make money through franchised kiosks generated from the solar power. A similar project was managed in Uganda with the aim to explore more markets in the whole of Africa due to high demand. As can be seen in social practice, by adopting new sustainable technologies, the lives of local people have been deeply improved, thereby solving some significant social issues for these countries.
Social Enterprise: A conclusion
To conclude, to answer the question of the ways that social entrepreneurship has become more sustainable, the two key aspects of environmental and social sustainability should be emphasised. Furthermore, environmental and social solutions have been provided to offer solutions to the issues faced by the public. When it comes to environmental issues, the main points are global warming and climate improvement with solutions using sustainable clean energy and new technologies to transfer resources into better forms. As for social issues, population growth, living conditions and technologies have been taken into consideration with solutions of providing job opportunities and improving the lives of people by using sustainable technologies.
- Link up with Yuqian Li via LinkedIn
- Read a related article: From nature-based solutions to nature-based enterprises
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