A pilot program is underway to help review, validate, and communicate the social impact created by local social enterprises. Led by SocialVentures and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Central Ohio, with support from Measurement Resources Company (MRC), the program will help consumers substantiate their decision to support socially-conscious businesses.
As more for- and non-profit organizations identify themselves as social enterprises – now over 100 in Central Ohio according to SocialVentures’ annual report – questions are raised about what the terminology really means. SocialVentures defines social enterprises as, “businesses that intentionally integrate social impact as a non-negotiable component of their business model through the people they employ or the social missions they support.”
Many consumers indicate they would prefer to support brands with a social mission, especially when it comes to Millennials as outlined in Forbes. SocialVentures found that locally, many of those decisions come down to trust.
“Last spring, Lextant conducted a study on our behalf to explore the market’s current understanding and perceptions of social enterprise,” says Molly Tafrate, vice president of SocialVentures. “The results of that study revealed that consumers rely heavily on trust as part of their purchase decisions, and they raised the question—how can consumers trust that the social impact a social enterprise claims is legitimate? Currently there’s no organization that independently validates social impact.”
The new program will seek to provide that validation. MRC has already outlined a framework to communicate social impact, encompassing social impact metrics from local social enterprise organizations, while using as few data points as possible. SocialVentures’ Marketplace will connect social enterprises with consumers, while the BBB brings expertise in managing certification and business review programs.
“The intent is that the validation program will be both universally applicable for all social enterprises—and easy for consumers to understand and use as part of their purchasing decisions,” Tafrate says.
The enterprises will be able to use the designation to demonstrate to donors, investors, and consumers that their reported social impact is legitimate, confidently leveraging those benefits in their marketing and outreach efforts.
Eleven individuals representing independent for-profit businesses and social enterprises supporting non-profits will provide perspective as members of the Pilot Product Development Group. Participating business leaders include:
- Sarah Duplessis, Program Director, Food for Good Thought
- Kenny Sipes, Founder, The Roosevelt Coffeehouse
- John Rush, Owner/ CEO of CleanTurn Enterprises (which includes CleanTurn Demolition Services, She Has A Name Cleaning Services and Third Way Cafe)
- Steve Votaw, President, Furniture Bank (with social enterprises Furniture With A Heart
and Downsize With A Heart)
- Phil Washburn, Program Director, Habitat for Humanity-MidOhio’s ReStore
- Ed Miner, Executive Director, Bikes for All People
- Ramona Swayne, Managing Director, Alvis 180 (with social enterprises Nature’s Touch
Landscaping and Transitions Commercial Cleaning)
- Marvin Green, Co-Founder, CAREcutz
- Paula Haines, Executive Director, Freedom a la Cart
- Diana Spain, Owner, Kicks Mix Bookstore
- David Uhl, Director of Business Development, Art & Clay on Main; Square Seven Coffee
The pilot will run through June of 2019 with the goal of publicly launching the service by the end of 2019.
For more information, visit socialventurescbus.com.