Are Social Businesses the Catalyst for Increased Global Equality?

“The world is commiting collective suicide”; interesting thought, right?
By Grace Blackford
I was sitting in a lecture at uni when my lecturer spoke these words. The lecture was on International affairs and more specifically the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). My lecturer was discussing UN SDG 13: Climate Action, and how current inaction on its devastating effects will inevitably destroy the planet. Despite this thought, governmental inaction on these issues remains high with national agendas laying elsewhere. The UN has developed the Sustainable Development Goals to identify the areas in which governments, individuals and corporations need to focus on to create a sustainable future; so why is most of the responsibility being placed on governments when they are hesitating to further action these goals?

In recent years, Australia’s national agenda has shifted to focus on retaining power and influence within the Pacific region, with our declining aid budgets focused primarily in this geographic area. Since Australian aid reached its peak in 2011-12, there has been a declining budget towards foreign aid and the resulting public dialogue surrounding this has increased significantly. So why is everyone relying upon governmental efforts to champion these goals? Despite the role that non-governmental groups are taking, ultimately the spotlight is placed upon nations, often disregarding the work of smaller organisations.

The responsibility to work upon building a sustainable future falls into every individual’s hands, not just those of the government. Larger corporations meet Corporate Social Responsibility goals, but are these sustainable in the long run? Likewise, global charities also work towards achieving the SDG’s, but are these also sustainable and effective in the long-term? So, what is an ideal way to achieve the UN SDGs from a grassroots approach, ensuring that a sustainable future is achieved?

A social business is one that uses enterprise to tackle social issues. It takes a business model, designed specifically to fit the local communities’ needs, and then seeks to create a profitable business that delivers sustainable goods and services that are needed within the community.

Social businesses build a sustainable future in a couple of ways. First they are designed to fit specific community needs, which encourages members of the community to truly value and want the good or service which, unlike charities, ensures the continued success of the business model as they do not give away free, unneeded items. Further, the main aim of a social business is to combat a given social issue whilst creating profit and isn’t driven purely by making money. This makes it more effective than a charity as it doesn’t rely upon donations from individuals and creates a self-sustaining organisation. This profit is then reinvested into the company to improve upon the quality of the goods and services which furthers their social impact.

To provide an example of a social business, take FarmEd, one of the projects led by Project Everest Ventures. The project focuses on Goal 2 of the UN SDGs; Zero Hunger. FarmEd aims to achieve this by improving agricultural practices to increase income and food security for farmers in a number of developing countries with a heavy reliance on subsistence farming.

FarmEd is a technology-based consultancy service and permaculture farming device that brings agricultural expertise to small holder farmers, to create a food supply chain that is smarter, more efficient and more profitable. Upon identifying a genuine need through extensive empathising in local villages of countries such as Fiji, Timor-Leste, Cambodia and Malawi, the project has been successfully implemented. Not only does this work to achieve Goal 2 of the UN SDGs, but its effects are multifaceted, as the positive flow on effects work to achieve many other SDGs as well.

Social businesses are a growing force in the world of social issues and it is only a matter of time before they are the leading effort in achieving the UN SDGs; so why sit back and expect governments to solve the world’s issues?