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The social business era

Mobile communications and internet connectivity are transforming the way we organize our lives, businesses and societies, providing us with an unprecedented capacity for entrepreneurship. Mobile connectivity and internet access expose social issues, but also empower people with the necessary tools and opportunities to address them.

Creating impact and influencing social change

It is no coincidence that social businesses, also known as social enterprises, have emerged and developed in the Networked Society. Unlike traditional businesses, these companies are driven by a social cause, putting social impact before profit to create a sustainable business model for the greater good. They are also re-thinking the way corporations work with the community.

In our report, The Social Business Era, we consider the role of information and communications technology (ICT) in the emergence of social businesses, and how it enables social entrepreneurs to address global social and environmental challenges. The possible impact on traditional for-profit corporations and business models is also explored.

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Social business is driven by social impact, placing a social cause above profit-making

Nairobi is a city of vast polarity. Kenya’s social entrepreneurs aim to change that

Medellín has a troubled past. Social business is helping it to move forward

What is social business?

Social business bridges the gap between the altruism of non-profit organizations and the financial agendas of for-profit companies. Social entrepreneurs’ primary intent is to create “good” impact, and by using revenue streams to improve financial stability, this impact is increased.

Social businesses:

  • Work from within the community to ensure lasting empowerment
  • Adopt the right elements of for-profits to achieve social good
  • Use financial stability to ensure continuous social impact
Find out more about social business

The social business model vs. traditional business

Infographic

Unlike a traditional business model that revolves around maximizing profit, social businesses measure their “success” by the social impact that is created.

Profits are seen as a tool, and what constitutes the business model of for-profits is contained within the financial dimension of the social business model. Key differences include:

  • The social impact model explains the mission of the business, while the traditional value proposition defines the value a business offers its markets and customers
  • The financial sustainability model generates enough revenue for the social mission, while the traditional revenue model seeks to generate revenue at any cost
Find out more about the social business model

Stories from Medellín and Nairobi

Social businesses are making an impact all over the world. Below are just a few examples.

Nairobi

Nairobi

Nairobi is a city of polarity: on the one hand it is an East African tech hub and on the other, it is struggling to address social problems. Kenya’s social entrepreneurs aim to change this by adapting technologies to meet local needs. Examples include Sanergy, a business that installs high-quality, low-cost toilets, and educates local franchisers to run them and remove the waste, and Maji Milele, which provides clean water at an affordable price via a digitized system.

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Medellín

Medellín

Medellín has undergone a journey from center of crime to center of innovation. Social businesses are helping to heal the city’s wounds by providing solutions to social problems and building a foundation for coming generations. Stories include that of Aulas Amigas, a business that is aiming to improve tuition in Colombia by offering educational tools and training for teachers, and SiembraViva, which is empowering farmers by connecting them to their customers.

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The role of ICT

ICT is a key driver in the emergence and development of social businesses: it makes starting a social business affordable, social impact scalable, and enables social entrepreneurs to build a larger – and even global – community.

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The future implications

The emergence of social business is the result of a multitude of converging factors, which will only increase as technological advances continue. As the movement gains momentum, it’s intriguing to think about the consequences, for example:

  • An increased awareness of brand ethics, forcing the brands of tomorrow to take a political or ideological stance – both to attract customers and the best talent
  • A rise in traditional for-profits measuring their social impact
Find out more about the future implications of social business

Related reading

Social responsibility is at the heart of our business and Ericsson believes in using technology for good. Through our solutions and advocacy, we work to address areas such as climate change, poverty, education and human rights.

Our approach

See how our sustainability and corporate responsibility strategy aims to make measurable contributions to a sustainable networked society. 

Sustainable Development Goals

Learn more about ICT’s role in the Sustainable Development Goals, and the work Ericsson is doing to help reach each one. 

Sustainability & CR report

Read our latest Sustainability & CR report to find out how Ericsson is performing in these areas.