24 July 2012

Social Need and The Question of Profit

Is it wrong to make a profit from fulfilling a vital social need?

It's an interesting question that I feel has to be addressed by asking another: If an individual is generating profits by addressing such a need, what happens to those profits? Are they being reinvested into the community program in question (an eventuality that will typically occur in the case of government, not-for-profit or social enterprise interventions)? Or is the private enterprise capturing and pocketing that value?

On the surface, I don't have a problem with any of these, so maybe the question really needs to be changed to explore the matter of appropriateness. I think it would be a pity if someone is driving around in a Ferrari when the money that paid for it was generated via someone else's disadvantage. We all need to be aware of the issues and find solutions that don't enrich private individuals at the expense of those most in need.

So, our reflections become: Are we teaching commercial enterprise that has a conscience (i.e. a private enterprise culture founded on ethical behaviour and corporate social responsibility)? Additionally, does our curricula teach social enterprise and social entrepreneurship to empower individuals to build mission-based businesses? Certainly, within our Innovation & Enterprise Program we can answer 'yes' to both questions.

Author: Richard Seymour - Innovation and Enterprise Program Director

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