Posted by: John Tozzi on June 8, 2010
Social entrepreneurship isn’t a niche corner of the business world anymore. The idea of using business to create social and environmental value alongside profits has reached nearly every sector of the economy—and that breadth is evident in Bloomberg Businessweek’s second annual U.S. roundup of promising social entrepreneurs.
The 25 finalists profiled in this slide show, culled from more than 200 reader suggestions, include entrepreneurs in insurance, banking, pharmaceuticals, and construction, as well as more conventional social enterprises like organic farms and fair-trade coffee companies. Other entrepreneurs have found opportunity in helping traditional businesses—including titans like Wal-Mart—increase their impact. The companies in our round-up range from fresh startups to established, multimillion-dollar enterprises. All share a commitment to using business to create a broader benefit.
While the idea of “blended value” companies that mix profits and purpose is clearly catching on, not everyone is convinced it’s a good one. Muhammad Yunus, the microfinance pioneer who founded Grameen Bank, argues that when entrepreneurs try to make money and impact, they often compromise their missions for profits. In a new book, Building Social Business, Yunus calls for a new type of company that employs business methods to create social change, without founders taking profit out of it. He challenges what has become conventional wisdom among social entrepreneurs: That businesses can be dedicated to both private profits and public benefits. Read an excerpt here.
Social entrepreneurs are trying to prove that they can. Take a look through our round-up to see how. Then vote on the one you think is most promising. We’ll publish readers’ top five selections on June 29.