The idea of putting up a social enterprise or a business to help eliminate poverty seemed incredulous just a few years ago.
Today, not only is the local social enterprise scene blossoming, these businesses are also attracting global investors.
“At the very core of social entrepreneurship is bringing people out of poverty,” stated Dylan Wilk, Vice President and Chairman of Gandang Kalikasan Inc. at the recent Social Business Summit held at GK Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan. Gandang Kalikasan is the country’s largest and fastest growing social enterprise and the operator of genuinely natural brand Human Nature.
Addressing over 500 delegates from 13 countries, Wilk emphasized that going back to that core was key to building global social enterprises.
“As a social entrepreneur, you have to ask yourself: what is the living wage? You’re not a social enterprise if you’re just paying minimum wage…if you have contractual workers. Social enterprises are integral to changing the employment landscape of the Philippines.”
While a five month contract with no benefits is the norm for most merchandisers and factory workers in the Philippines, Gandang Kalikasan insists on regularising all its employees, giving them full benefits and paying them over 60 percent of NCR minimum wage. The company also enforces a no firing policy for its all regular employees.
The company is proof that “doing good makes good business sense”: Gandang Kalikasan has grown from 17 employees in 2009 to over 350 in 2016 and is looking to fill more manufacturing and retail operation roles.
Other social enterprises featured at the summit included Plush & Play, Ambension Silk Enterprise, Rags2Riches, First Harvest, Bayani Brew, and Golden Duck.
Social investment grows
“Social investment gives much better financial returns,” shared Gus Poston of Bridge Advisory, a consulting and investment firm that focuses on rural banks, SMEs, and SEs. Globally, social investment is growing by 15% per year and that the number is expected to grow.
Poston emphasized that while impact investors look for the same things as other investors — good market, strong management, and profits — it is the commitment and social impact of an enterprise that truly wins them over. “What we are trying to do is grow socially motivated companies and help ‘normal’ companies become more social,” he added.
Even big players like Coca-Cola are making their business more social.
“It used to be that giving back was solely the responsibility of the public affairs department. Now each general manager is responsible for it. This made us look at our global supply chain,” shared Tony del Rosario, General Manager of Coca-Cola Thailand, Laos and Myanmar.
Del Rosario shared how EKOCENTER marks Coca-Cola’s own shift towards being more social. EKOCENTER is a small modular store that can also provide electricity via solar power, safe water, and Internet access to remote communities.
GK’s Executive Director Luis Oquineña urged delegates invest in the poor, adding that it is up to social entrepreneurs to create a new way of doing business. “We all need to create a shift from the mainstream …if we make the poor, who are at the bottom of the (socioeconomic) pyramid our headline – then we will realize just how unstable our current system is.”
Perhaps the keynote address delivered by President Benigno Aquino during the summit’s opening day best summarizes what GK and its partner SEs are trying to accomplish:
“All these initiatives reinforce the idea that business—and governance—driven by kindness makes the most sense. After all, when we help those who have the least—when we equip them with the skills they need to take advantage of the growing number of opportunities—we do more than empower them as individuals; we also empower them as consumers. What we see here is a virtuous cycle of vibrant economic growth and inclusivity—one that can guarantee that our nation’s economic growth continues far into the future, and is felt across the archipelago.”