The term social has found itself at the forefront of many new societal endeavors over the last few years, take social media for instance or social distancing which hopefully we all know about and are practicing presently. Social simply means relating to society or its organizations which means it can apply to nearly anything. One area that the term social could significantly impact is business. The idea that businesses uphold a social responsibility has been labeled as social entrepreneurship and the basic definition is individuals, groups, start-up companies or entrepreneurs that develop, fund and implement solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues.
From a young age I was interested in preserving our planet, fascinated with the animals that live here and humankind’s ability to dominate at the cosmopolitan level. I have been fortunate to have been a part of research studying the impact of climate change on frogs in the cloud forest of Costa Rica and the genetic pressure introduced brown trout have on native cutthroat trout in the rivers of New Mexico. I have also worked at the municipal level in zoonotics evaluating the risk of west Nile virus transmitted through mosquitos and inspected facilities to help monitor and prevent foodborne illnesses in at risk populations. Presently I work in biotechnology where we develop life changing medications to combat disease in humans.
All of these endeavors are a representation of my passion for helping others and our planet. Given I am also interested in leadership and business I decided to take a course as part of my graduate studies on social entrepreneurialism. It was then that I realized a company or an employee does not need to have a role explicitly devoted to preserving the planet or helping others to be able to contribute to society or the planet in a positive manner. A business can make a profit or create a product that is non-related to the planet and still do their part to give back or work towards sustainability and those efforts most certainly can be a part of their mission.
The more I thought about this the more I realized as human kind expands the globe and medicine offers the ability to prolong and preserve human life we now more than ever need to take a closer look at how all living things are interconnected and how they can cohabitate on this planet over time. Given businesses drive our economy and employ our citizens it is their responsibility to be mindful of their impact and our responsibility to encourage them to do so. In order for there to be sustainability for all species there needs to be balance.
This is when I realized that many of the teachings of yoga can be applied to social ventures. Yoga teaches us to be kind to ourselves first in order to in turn be kind to others and the planet. It teaches us that all things must remain in balance or equilibrium in order to avoid disarray. It teaches us to be calm and gentle and lighten our footprint. To listen not just to ourselves but to everything and everyone around us. It teaches us to be aware, aware of who we are, where we are and what our impact is.
Yoga means Yolk or union, to me the bridge between yoga and social entrepreneurialism can be summed up in a simile. For an individual the yogic union is the mind and the physical form and for business union is the organization (mind) and the environment or society (physical form). If businesses thought this way and leaders adopted the practice of yoga with no effort they would give back without giving it thought and they would be sustainable.
At first I hesitated to write this blog given the circumstances and that most non-essential business were closed, however after further thought I realized this is the perfect time to share this information. In light of recent events there has been a major impact to employees and supply chains across the world bringing to light non sustainable source of our raw materials and mistreatment of employees. In times like these we need social businesses more than ever and this highlights the need for essential businesses to move in this direction. The outcomes of COVID-19 coupled with the move towards a more social world in general means that businesses that do not prioritize the planet and the people on it will slowly wither away over time or find it hard to keep customers. For those that are forward thinking and already have incorporated these societal benefits into their business model, I support you and applaud you, so does our planet. I hope you set the example, wait…standard for the rest of the companies in this world.
Where do you stand on building businesses that have a social cause, is there room in the future for business that do not give back? I would love to hear your opinion even if you do not agree with my take on the topic. Please leave your thoughts in the comments.
If you are interested in learning more about social entrepreneurship here is an in depth overview. https://ssir.org/articles/entry/social_entrepreneurship_the_case_for_definition