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Photo: Tajana Mesic

“To go far you must begin near, and the nearest step is the most important one.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti delivering social and environmental benefits, striving to make a profit, but also to make a difference. It’s an appealing prospect. As a result, there is a fourth sector emerging – the Social Enterprise sector. These companies are also called Triple Bottom Line companies – they are measured by their impact on people, profit and planet. Companies such as the clothing company Patagonia, Grameen Bank and cleaning product supply maker Seventh Generation were formed. The Fourth Sector of the economy has many informal manifestations and a number of buzzwords that you might recognize: corporate social responsibility, B Corporations, the Triple Bottom Line, cause-based marketing, corporate responsibility, community development, social enterprise, venture philanthropy, sustainable business, microfinance, and many other names. At the October 2012 SXSW Eco conference in Austin, I spoke with Jigar Shah, a social entrepreneur and the very successful founder of SunEdison, a solar energy service company. Often young social entrepreneurs come to him for business advice. The best advice he gives them is to find inspiration and to bring their outrage to a social or environmental problem. “We have lost our outrage as a society. We’ll never win this battle through technology,” Jigar said. Social Enterprises: Leading by Example There are a number of social enterprises solving problems and making money both in America and beyond. Listed are some that inspire me daily with their results. SunEdison is an American company. Its founder Jigar Shah created the power purchase agreement (PPA) model for the solar industry. This business model used net metering,

streamlined interconnection standards, ways to connect to the grid, and actually provided a new solar power service to customers. Investments in PPAs are delivering compelling 7-12 percent returns at a very low risk. They have also lowered the use of fossil fuels to deliver electric energy; created thousands of jobs worldwide and are growing. They have impactful financial returns and impact a big problem. Pioneer in microfinance, Grameen Bank was started by Professor Muhammad Yunus in 1976 with a $27 investment to provide loans to the world’s poorest people, especially women. Over time, the organization reversed conventional banking practice and created a system based on mutual trust, accountability, participation and creativity. Today, Grameen Bank provides credit to over 7 million poor families in rural Bangladesh, without any collateral. With 2,559 branches, Grameen Bank services 84,652 villages, covering nearly 100 percent of the total villages in Bangladesh. The bank is fully owned by its clients. In 2006, Professor Yunus and Grameen Bank jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize. President Barack Obama awarded Professor Yunus the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom. Grameen Bank continues serving as a role model for microfinance institutions and other social enterprises internationally. Houston Student Team: The Revolutionary Trashcans: With a number of leading universities, Houston is a hotbed of thought leadership and development. At a recent business competition, a group of students at Rice University spent a weekend developing solutions to environmental and social problems. One team came up with the Revolutionary Trashcan idea, developing a scalable solution that will increase awareness and reduce the amount of negligent food waste in college cafeterias. In a recent update from the founder, a Rice student,

HUM Magazine November 2012  
HUM Magazine November 2012  

HUM Magazine November 2012

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