Making good money: Social enterprises are growing

Social enterprises make money by solving social problems. But the main goal is not to make a profit, but to improve the world. And according to the second European Social Enterprise Monitor, this is happening more and more professionally, especially in the Netherlands.

“They are real companies with real investors and serious employees. Here, more than in any other country, you can see that the business is really strong. Still, it’s good to see that this is a pan-European movement gaining ground.” says Stefan Panhuijsen of the Social Enterprise NL interest group.

Relatively few volunteers work for social enterprises in the Netherlands. Compared to other countries, very little turnover is generated through subsidies and donations. Sales to other companies are the main source of income for 80 percent of companies.

Why start a company where profit is not the most important thing? “It’s a bit like an open door, but it comes from a desire to solve a social problem,” Panhuijsen said. This is idealism,” he says.

“Improving the world is not seen by these entrepreneurs as something that costs money or causes problems. They see this as an opportunity to find new target groups and open up to markets,” says Kees Klomp, lecturer in economics of meaning at the University of Applied Sciences in Rotterdam. He has been in social entrepreneurship for 25 years.

“What is new is that corporate organizations are also focusing on social entrepreneurship. They recognize that we must not only create financial value, but also, for example, social or ecological significance. The Netherlands is truly at the forefront of Tony’s Chocolony or FairPhone, available from Australia to Japan. We can take some pride in that.”

social gain

A week before the Corona epidemic, Yasmina Khababi (27) founded FreshTable, a food and delivery company that employs status holders. He does not regret his decision despite tough business times due to Corona measures.

“I always say: Corona was the ultimate test. We had a time when things just didn’t go well. But even if you have little or no turnover, you can dedicate yourself to society. Right now we’re doing both: the social part and the for-profit.”

The European survey shows that the majority of social enterprises are in the early growth stage. Dutch social enterprises report that they are above average in the “established growth stage”.

“Very cautiously, I dare say we got there too,” says Khababi. “Initially we only work in Rotterdam, now all over the Netherlands. From the municipality of Amsterdam to companies we serve lunch and dinner. It’s good to see that effect.”

higher on the agenda

In principle, anyone in the Netherlands can call himself a “social enterprise”. But abuse is not frequent, Panhuijsen says. “Some companies can stand out in this regard, otherwise questions are asked right away. It works somewhat self-adjusting.”

While the Netherlands is “doing well,” Panhuijsen says these companies are also facing challenges. “We are in favor of BVm, the social BV that the government is working on for social enterprises. This helps make them visible to everyone.”

According to Panhuijsen, the government and large companies also have a role to play. “More often than now, they are allowed to purchase services and products from social enterprises. Not only for the companies themselves, but also for the state to increase its social influence.”

Source: NOS