Profit for social purpose

The matter of using profit for a social purpose arose recently in the context of the Social Value Act. A conversation on the Social Enterprise Mark group. started by Anne Mountjoy who I correspended with directly about our own work in this area 5 years ago. I referred to “our services as a profit for social purpose business” aka people-centered economic development,  saying

“One of the reasons we migrated our social purpose to Ukraine is that at the time when we brought the P-CED profit for purpose model to the UK, there was absolutely no response from those advocacies that existed at the time. Even to the point of failing to get a reply from Baroness Thornton of the SEC in a letter delivered to her at the House of Lords.”

The Linked discussion on social investment is one of the many conversations I can’t participate in because this forun is one of those that will not approve my comment on the current conversation about social investment.  It was interesting to read what Pope Benedict wrote on this subject in his 2009 encyclical, ‘Caritas in Veritate’

‘This is not merely a matter of a “third sector”, but of a broad new composite reality embracing the private and public spheres, one which does not exclude profit, but instead considers it a means for achieving human and social ends. Whether such companies distribute dividends or not, whether their juridical structure corresponds to one or other of the established forms, becomes secondary in relation to their willingness to view profit as a means of achieving the goal of a more humane market and society’

‘Striving to meet the deepest moral needs of the person also has important and beneficial repercussions at the level of economics. The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly — not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centred.’ .

As an agnostic, I’m reliably informed that it’s about “the authentic development of every person and of all humanity

I aligned very well with the business plan for people-centered economic development which was distrbuted to the social enterprise community in 2004 and said:

“Traditional capitalism is an insufficient economic model allowing monetary outcomes as the bottom line with little regard to social needs. Bottom line must be taken one step further by at least some companies, past profit, to people. How profits are used is equally as important as creation of profits. Where profits can be brought to bear by willing individuals and companies to social benefit, so much the better. Moreover, this activity must be recognized and supported at government policy level as a badly needed, essential, and entirely legitimate enterprise activity.”

The ‘profit for purpose’ business model as we concieved it, was distributed from 1996 onward free for others to use.

Now, this is what Lucy Findlay says in her blog on the matter of certification.

“So why not self-certify after all it’s quicker, cheaper and potentially more accessible?

Easy accessibility is its key downfall. It does not protect integrity, it is inconsistent and is open to self-interpretation and in the worst cases, abuse.

Having run the Social Enterprise Mark since the beginning, we have developed the criteria in partnership with the sector and have protected and owned these criteria fiercely. It is our experience that interpretation of the criteria is a technical job and not easily carried out by anyone. We are constantly learning about new forms of social enterprise and the way that they operate. Our Assessment Manual has taken years of work to develop and our certification panel has taken its job very seriously in developing those precedents which have been set.:”

Is it possible for one to “protect and own” what someone else has shared with you freely?

All that was available to us in terms of certification was ‘See What You Are Buying In To’ which has more recently been rebranded as ‘Profit through Ethics’. A costly exercise for a small business which brought no business at all, not even an enquiry. I also approached B Corps with a view to collaborate. They were unable to extend to our shores.

What we were attempting to “protect and own” was not a model but the sum of our investment and labours over many years. Protection not for our own benefit but for benefit of those in greatest need, as I’ve descrribed earlier.

By 2009, when Social Edge hosted the discussion about building the social economy, my colleague was battling for his own life and that of thousands of the most needy. He wrote about the need to protect IP for social benefit:

It was he, who from the beginning, had warned about the risk from the unscrupulous and here we are today, with a suggestion that we are among the unscrupolous in not signing up with one of many organisations who declined our offer to collaborate.

This is not safeguarding or propagating the social economy it is brand building. Whether by means of excluding others from conversation or referring to anonymous defamation, to allude to some kind of malpractice, it is building of reputation and income at the expense of others and perhaps even at the expense of their lives.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s