Europe

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Flickr/CC/Khairul Abdullah

By Laura Manent

 

Recent years have witnessed an increase in the importance accorded to Corporate Social Responsibility around the world, as we get more and more preoccupied by climate change and sustainability issues.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) refers to the fact that companies are responsible for the impact of their activities on society and the environment, so they decide to benefit society in different ways by acting upon social issues.

 

What about Switzerland ?

Flickr/CC/Guido Gloor Modjib
Flickr/CC/Guido Gloor Modjib

According to the Swiss Confederation,

“A consistent and broad implementation of CSR significantly improves sustainable development and provides solutions to social challenges.”

In fact, Switzerland considers that by being concerned about issues as working conditions, environment, human rights or corruption, companies can be more competitive and contribute positively to society. And yes, Switzerland knows something about competitive enterprises as the country is among the most competing in the world.

 

On 1 April 2015, the Swiss Federal Council adopted a position paper and an action plan on CSR. Considering its necessity, the Confederation decided to play a role in the development of a framework and standards surrounding CSR. By adopting a responsible behavior itself, informing and heightening awareness in Switzerland and abroad, providing support to Swiss companies and promoting transparency, the Confederation is looking to coordinate the implementation of its action plan between 2015 and 2019. Helping enterprises implement CSR by setting an example makes Switzerland a country where the government itself is socially and environmentally responsible.

 

Private and public sectors are involved

 

Flickr/CC/Aero Icarus
Flickr/CC/Aero Icarus

 

Companies such as SWISS and Swiss Life are already committed to corporate responsibility. The Swiss national airline, has developed a strategy regarding its ecological, social and economic responsibilities : it promotes health by looking after its staff’s well-being, supports a day nursery, supports technological progress and research into alternative fuels within the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) to reduce its environmental impact.

Swiss Life, an insurance company, was part of the creation of the Swiss Climate Foundation in 2008 and created a foundation to fund domestic charitable initiatives in the fields of education, culture, health, and integration.

 

For those who don’t really know where to start, in 2000 Bettina Ferdman Guerrier created Philias, a business network aiming to promote CSR in Switzerland. Six years later, Humagora was created as a unique multi-stakeholder platform to promote partnerships between the private, public and nonprofit sectors, encouraging innovative and responsible projects with a societal impact in the country.

The 11th edition of Humagora is taking place on 11 November 2015, and will revolve around different themes such as environment and poverty. Through workshops and speeches, Humagora offers to companies and nonprofit organizations a dedicated platform of networking to get to know each other in order to act together. The Humagora Award rewards every year the most effective partnerships.

 

In 2008, the University of Geneva has even launched its own Executive Education in Corporate Social Responsibility in the form of a Certificate of Advanced Studies, Diploma of Advanced Studies, Executive MBA or Summer Courses (your choice to make), the University encourages professionals from private and public sectors to become the innovative and responsible leaders of tomorrow.

Flickr/CC/Jack at Wikipedia
Flickr/CC/Jack at Wikipedia

 

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Flickr/CC/Freedom House | A Syrian refugee boy is pictured on March 27, 2012 as people fleeing violence in Syria continue to enter Turkey near Reyhanli in Hatay province.

By Pia Chatterjee

2015 has been a particularly trying year for migrants in Europe, now dealing with its worst refugee crisis since the second world war. The rise of anti-immigration political sentiment continent-wide, exponential rise in pressure on resources and public facilities, as well as the increase in reasons compelling people to migrate or seek refuge in the first place have made it so that migrants now lead very precarious and unstable lives. The most recent debate concerning the acceptance of Syrian refugees into the EU has made newer sparks fly and made this already sensitive subject come to the forefront of everything political, social and economic. There are currently thousands of migrants crossing borders from both within the EU and out of it, be it seeking refuge from political persecution or fleeing extenuating economic circumstances. We can be grateful that there are some social enterprises working tirelessly to accommodate this huge influx of people when all other recourses seem inadequate. Here are 3 in particular that are doing amazing things to help those in need:

  1. Refugee Hero, The Netherlands: Based in the Netherlands, Refugee Hero is a kind of AirBnB for refugees. It gives regular people all over Europe the opportunity to volunteer to open their homes to refugees for them to have temporary homes while they get back up on their feet. It is the founders Germaine Statia, Jamal Oulel and Ayoub Aouragh themselves who made the comparison with the website that helps people find apartments to rent around the globe, with one crucial difference: Refugee Hero is completely free of cost. Anyone can choose to offer access to their property to be briefly occupied by refugees struggling to find a roof over their heads, including schools, churches, offices and just about any other kind of private property. The site is funded by Dutch municipalities, which isn’t incredibly surprising given that Dutch governmental institutions spent 495 million euros trying to help refugees in 2014 alone. Refugee Hero is hoping to expand its reach to include helping people for all kinds of migration-related problems like applying for social security, citizenship, finding work and enrolling children in schools. Until then, it’s still doing a pretty great job. If you’re looking to make a difference and get involved in helping with the refugee crisis, check out their website and host someone yourself today!
  1. Dentist Study Buddy, United Kingdom: Based in the UK, the Dentist Study Buddy Programme is a more targeted project managed by the Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum (MRCF) that helps migrant and refugee dentists connect with each other and obtain the requisite verification and permissions to practice dentistry in the UK. Having created an impressive overseas network of doctors, the programme has been in place for about a decade and is the only source of support for these gifted practitioners who are prevented from using their skills due to administrative barriers. The process to have degrees and qualifications verified and validated in the UK can take up to two years. For the first 8 years MRCF received local and national funding, but the steady stream of funds gradually dissipated with the onslaught of the economic crisis. MRCF now charges a 50-pound fee to maintain the programme that still substantially helps over 3,000 dentists, which has only made its members more active since they are now financially invested in the project. If you thought the issue was too remote to have an entire project dedicated to it, you were wrong! If you’re having problems dealing with British bureaucracy, you now know where to look.
  1. Magdas Hotel, Austria: Magdas Hotel is a recently set up hotel in the stunning Austrian capital of Vienna. Of its currently mere 28 employees, 20 are refugees who have been given work in the hotel serving people from all over the world in the highly touristic city. Given their background, over 21 international languages are spoken here and can cater to just about any nationality. For many of these receptionists, bartenders, housekeepers and other service personnel, working at Magdas is their first job in this kind of service industry. They are supervised and guided by 5 very capable industry professionals and a job coach to ensure that they are able to adapt to this new work environment and provide the best possible quality service. The project was launched by the Austrian organization Caritas which handed the management baton to Dutchman Sebastiaan de Vos, an active and enthusiastic 28-year-old proud of the hotel having already been at full capacity despite how recently it opened. Since it isn’t publicly funded at all, the hotel was obliged to be set up and renovated from what was previously an old-age home with a 1.5 million euro loan from Caritas. 57,000 euros were also able to be gathered through crowdfunding, and business for the 78-room location is flourishing. Aside from providing their guests with a fantastic experience, employees here are also able to share their stories and be more than just meaningless statistics. 20 portraits hang in the lobby of the building to remind people that the awful stories you hear are all very real and that the people in each one of them could easily be someone you know. Magdas’ work is symbolic for the cause, and you should definitely stop by on your next stop to the City of Music.

There are tons of other enterprises bringing people like you and me to be involved at the forefront of the gargantuan immigration issue pressing Europe. While most tend to cater to refugees, the impact is starting to expand to include other migrants who may not be seeking asylum as well. As is often the case, social enterprise serves to do good when there aren’t enough resources for other institutions to do so adequately. We can definitely be grateful to enterprises like these that are using their creativity and good will to ease the tension currently plaguing the continent.

 

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Flickr/CC/Kheel Center

By Timothy Jahl

No company wants to be seen as violating human rights in their factories. Several horrific and high-profile disasters abroad in the garment and clothing industries have led many companies to highlight their “ethical” sourcing of labor and their excellent systems for accountability. And yet, such disasters keep happening year after year.     

No matter how good your intentions are, low-cost clothing comes at a price, a price that abused foreign workers often pay. By manufacturing products within the European Union, companies can ensure that workers enjoy better protections of their rights that are better enforced. Check out these 6 companies that go the extra mile to protect human dignity by manufacturing in the EU.

  1. Vegetarian Shoes

Vegetarian Shoes makes footwear and other normally leather-based products using only its own patented vegan leather-replacement recipe. Manufacturing in England, Germany, Portugal, and Poland, they got on the vegan train before most, as they have been making cruelty-free products since 1990.

  1. Jill Milan

Another cruelty-free producer, Jill Milan is a designer of fashion accessories, including bags and wallets. Jill Milan’s bags are family-made in Italy, while they carry out some other manufacturing in the United States under the supervision of a Jill Milan representative. Jill Milan’s mission is to bring faux-leather into the luxury market.

  1. Story Mfg.

The most hipster company on this list, Story Mfg. carries a quirky variety of both fashion basics and unusual accessories. If you want a broad selection, don’t look here, but if you’re looking for something to set you apart, Story Mfg. is the place for you. All of their products are made in England.

  1. Little Shrimp

Little Shrimp sells exclusively clothing for infants and young children, all made from eco-friendly cotton. While it has a limited number of products, this restraint allows Little Shrimp to offer a number of different designs for each item in its catalogue. So if you’re looking to get just the right first outfit for your child, Little Shrimp can help you find it. All Little Shrimp products are made in the UK.

  1. Taylor Stitch

While based in California, Taylor Stich? makes most of its products for the European market within the EU. Taylor Stich? has a reputation for producing comfortable and long-lasting clothes that don’t sacrifice any style. Their European manufacturing capabilities include facilities in Portugal, Italy, and Scotland.

  1. Bourgeois Boheme

Bourgeois Boheme is a maker of elegant footwear for men and women. They have a special line of boots called the BBK-9, for which a portion of the profits are donated to animal rescue charities. Based and manufactured in London, Bourgeois Boheme also takes advantage of the long tradition of fine Portuguese cobblers with a factory in that country.

 

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Flickr/CC/Vladimir Pustovit

By Pia Chatterjee

A substantial number of social enterprises aimed at helping women are concentrated in countries in the Indian subcontinent, the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) and Latin America. However, with women’s employment rate at 62.5% compared to men’s 74.3%, their wages 16% less than men’s on average, pensions similarly 39% lower, and the fact that 1 in 3 women in the European Union alone experiences physical or sexual violence at some point in her life, Europe still has some way to go to achieve equality between the sexes. Social enterprise provides a particularly appropriate avenue for women to be helped and assume leading roles in business at the same time. Read on to find out more about 5 organizations helping women move up in Europe:

  1. Generando Igualdad, Spain: Generando Igualdad (Generating Equality) is an association that was formed in 2000 and works tirelessly to provide opportunities for women to enter the labour market and fight against gender-based violence. They manage a handful of projects that hope to eradicate gender-based inequality artistically, with psychiatric help and consults, and through campaigns to sensitize people to gender issues. Their project “Generando Tiempo, Amadrinando Vidas” (Creating Time, Sponsoring Lives) is particularly striking from an entrepreneurial standpoint as it aims to create an enterprise providing victims of violence with sustainable income. The endeavour works on the premise that these women tend not to have access to the support and therapy needed to enter the labour market and become economically autonomous, a vital step in the kind of recovery concerned. The organization is funded thanks to crowdfunding methods and tax concessions for groups working towards gender equality provided by the government. Check out their website for more information. (Note: Website is in Spanish.) 
  2. Why-Not Women, France: Why-Not Women is a financed project that aims to support women working in social enterprise worldwide, or social enterprises helping women. It was launched by a group of French students interested in women’s social enterprise and brings together students of the like worldwide to support and encourage small enterprises in the field. Through this project, the students not only find ways to connect directly with people working in the area they’re interested in, but also helps these small enterprises receive the aid that is crucial to correctly manage their work and expand, all the while making it clear to the world that supporting social enterprise for women is incredibly important. If you’re interested in contributing, take a look at their blog here. 
  3. B-fit, Turkey: b-Fit is an original project that seeks to promote gender equality, education and entrepreneurship of women and girls in Turkey through sports. Launched by Bedriye Hulya in 2006, b-Fit provides women with the physical and mental space to be free from traditional gender roles and societal pressures. Structured around daily 30-minute workout sessions, it puts women in the appropriate social setting to be able to embrace their independence outside of their traditional roles, raise their self esteem and put themselves in control of their own bodies. Their mission is also concerned with promoting female entrepreneurship and creating professional opportunities for women. Their centers are located nationwide and are open to women of all ages and backgrounds. They are founded and managed entirely by women, which itself is empowering and helps them acquire a very useful set of entrepreneurial skills, not to mention that it makes them great role models for the women constantly surrounding them. A monthly membership costs between 12 and 48 euros depending on location and type. Most members are housewives (40%) with the rest comprising students, teachers, health and legal sector workers, and retirees. You can easily find the b-Fit center nearest to you on their official page, so don’t wait any longer to take control of yourself and your environment and go for a good workout!
  1. Bosnian Handicrafts (BHcrafts), Bosnia and Herzegovina: BHcrafts is a retail business that employs refugee women displaced by the Bosnian war. Many of these women, though illiterate, were extremely proficient in knitting when they were recruited. The firm gave them a source of sustainable income in the wake of economic and social devastation that tore them from their families and homes. It produces handwoven clothing and decorative items, having started out as a humanitarian enterprise and evolved into an impressively successful export-oriented venture. These goods, popular in Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, the US, Spain, Italy, Japan and Kuwait, not only serve to rehabilitate these refugees but also keep them in touch with cultural traditions they hold dear. All products are made in consideration for the environment and using domestic raw materials to support the local economy to the furthest possible extent. It’s e-commerce facilities has eased its trajectory onto the international stage and made it possible for 89% of BHcrafts’ operations to be financed by its sales today. Take a look at their beautiful work on their website if you’re interested!  
  1. Network of Mother Centers, Czech Republic: A business that has been around for almost 15 years now, Network of Mother Centers’ work is focused on alleviating the grave issue of discrimination against the mothers of small children in the Czech Republic. With unarguably low allowances for maternity leave and obvious adverse social and professional consequences for mothers that do take time off to raise their children, the strong network of centers that this practice provide is essential to achieve gender equality in the Czech context. The 335 existent centers help women and their children to meet each other in a setting that presents a large selection of activities including crafts, sports, educational programmes and requalification workshops. Open to all, counting minorities, refugees and the disabled, these sessions also provide the platform to discuss important issues of xenophobia and racism. The centers ultimately furnishes these women with the perfect amalgamation of support, professional maintenance, exchange of ideas and involvement in public issues. To learn more about this fascinating work, have a quick browse on their website. (Note: Website is in Czech.)

 

If you were wondering where all the women’s empowerment social enterprises were hiding in Europe, here is just the tip of the iceberg! Be sure to support the ones you find have a real social impact to nudge Europe in the right direction – towards a brighter, more equal future.

 

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Flickr/CC/Procsilas Moscas

By Pia Chatterjee

Be it for a birthday, dinner you’re invited to, Christmas or some other happy occasion, you’ll always find someone, somewhere, to give a gift to. Why not use this massive proliferation of chronic gift-giving for a good cause? There now exists a social enterprise for just about every gift on the market, and some products even more creative than the conventional kind. You could much too easily kill two birds with one stone by buying your presents to benefit a social or environmental purpose. Here are 5 socially conscious presents you could make people in your life happy with:

  1. Divine Chocolate: Divine chocolate is co-owned by 85,000 farmers, members of the cooperative Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana. You can find a number of mouthwatering recipes for desserts, cookies and cocktails on their site, and even order some delicious looking bars of chocolate for less than 5$. Keeping the producers of the product remunerated for their hard work (perhaps) a long way from you are, you would also be able to allow someone to enjoy some fantastic fair trade chocolate
  2. Rocking Ur Teens: Don’t let the name fool you, this isn’t some run of the mill band camp for your kids. Rocking Ur Teens is Community Interest Company (CIC) based in the UK that aims to bring teenagers together for them to connect with each other and look towards a positive future. Intending to globalize within 5 years, the firm intends to organize teen conferences annually with different themes every year. The conferences give teens between 12 and 14 years of age (usually years 8 and 9 at school) the opportunity to meet each other and create the support system they need to flourish. This year, they focused on providing girls in the UK this opportunity. With the next set of conferences on March 17th, 2016 to include conferences for boys as well, try to pay the 10 pounds to send your kid to participate in this incomparable experience.
  3. Scarves by Counting Flowers: Counting Flowers produces unique, handmade scarves and shawls, fruit of the hard work of many talented artisans from a number of developing countries such as Afghanistan, Bolivia, Ethiopia, India, Laos, Madagascar and many more. In competition with more large-scale modes of production in their own countries, these artisans who are often members of cooperatives managed by women are given the opportunity to survive in their craft. The quality of their work is also impressive: you can choose between alpaca wool, cashmere, cotton, mohair, pashmina, sheep wool and many more materials to customize your scarf and even filter your gift by the country you would like your purchase to benefit. Purchases currently help 33 artisans and cooperatives in 18 countries. What’s more, everyone can wear scarves – that means you’ve found the dream generic gift!
  4. Belgravia House of Gifts’ Gourmet Gift Box: This is the perfect present for that one foodie friend. BHG is another CIC that supports and funds local initiatives that try to empower disadvantaged groups. They primarily work with 4Wings, a non-profit that aids women at risk by providing them with employment opportunities and creative therapy to raise self esteem. Their Gourmet Gift Boxes contain only the finest ingredients of the region are packed in a beautifully designed package. Extremely portable, the gift box could even serve for a flawless romantic picnic with your significant other. Each box also comes stocked with a specially designed postcard ready to be stamped with your handwritten and personal touch.
  5. Global Seesaw’s bags, jewellery and accessories: Give in to the temptation of buying this awesome belt made of recycled tyre. It was made by Global Seesaw, a fairtrade business that functions ethically on all fronts: it creates sustainable employment for women who have been victims of human trafficking, all their profits are re-invested into the cause and they also look into the most modern designs and the possibilities of creation available with recycled materials. When their materials aren’t recycled, they’re perfectly environmentally friendly and organic. You can buy just about anything from Global Seesaw – from bags, jewellery and accessories to bath and body products and homeware. You could redecorate someone’s entire life with things produced by them, and have them feel great about it!

 

Now you know of top quality socially conscious gifts that will leave both sender and receiver in the highest of spirits, and the world just a step further in the right direction. Happy shopping!

 

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Flickr/CC/Benjamin Großmann Geese

By Pia Chatterjee

The Netherlands always seemed to have the potential to provide the ideal environment for social enterprise to thrive in: with some of the fastest growing companies in the world and a conscientious population, they call out to the socially engaged and innovative who have a knack for business. While social enterprise appeared to take a while to pick up, as of today the country hosts between 4,000 and 5,000 companies that can be classified as products of social enterprise, including ones such as WASTED, Greenchoice, Fair Trade Original, Greenwheels, Tendris, and more. These companies remain on par with their more traditional for-profit counterparts and continue to grow relentlessly.

One of them, Fairphone, recently won the Tech5 competition for being the fastest-growing startup in Europe, having competed with 4 other for-profit finalists from other countries. The company aims to produce cell phones maintaining a fairer and more transparent production process and ensuring that all the steps taken, from mining and design to manufacturing and life cycle, take into consideration ethical values. Fairphone’s aim is to reconnect consumers to their products and lessen their own adverse environmental impact.

With 60,000 Fairphones sold, the company is undoubtedly off to a good start. The reasons for this are manifold: Fairphone is entirely auto-funded and hasn’t had to rely on donations to function. Employing people from all over the world, it currently boasts the presence of 20 nationalities bringing together knowledge from across the globe. Furthermore, while it works tirelessly to address issues of worker welfare, mining and conflict minerals in electronics production, and supply chain transparency, it has also paid adequate attention to ensuring its phones are equipped with advanced software technology and high quality components. You have the possibility to change parts of your phone yourself thanks to the access they give you to spare parts, and you’re sure to be presented with a product that is not only fairly produced, but is of the same stellar quality as other highly demanded smartphones on the market.

It only goes to show that social enterprise has the full potential of competing with more conventional corporate forms in the market without having to take any supplementary steps or measures.

Having recently come out with its second edition, Fairphone now offers its customers an excellent quality phone priced at $525 that can be pre-ordered on the Fairphone website starting July 2015.

 

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Flickr/CC/Jason Howie

By Beatrice Loh

 

With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat changing the way we communicate, social media has been reshaping our world in recent years. The advent of technology and the Internet has made connecting with people across international borders a breeze. Social media has impacted not just the communication between individuals but also the relationship between corporations, the government, and the general public. Social media has not only changed the way we communicate, but also the way we give. Non-profit organisations have adjusted the way they operate with the influx of social media avenues to raise awareness and funds for their causes.

Here are 5 ways that social media has changed the non-profit world:

  1. Reduced Cost of Advertising

Although setting up a Facebook page or Twitter account might be free, social media accounts for non-profit organisations still require staff to run them. However, compared to more traditional methods such as television and print campaigns, social media is a new low cost avenue that non-profit organisations can take advantage of. Apart from reducing cost, social media campaigns allow non-profit organisations to monitor and mine these campaigns for data to better plan budgets, cut costs, and ultimately make more money available to the actual cause itself.

  1. Increasing Awareness for Social Causes

Social media has given non-profit organisations an avenue to raise awareness for social causes through posts that generate ‘likes’ on Facebook and videos and posters that can be shared on numerous platforms.

The ALS Challenge was a viral campaign by The ALS Association, which fights Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. People would either donate $100 to the charity or take a video of having a bucket of ice water dumped on themselves. They would then nominate others to do the same in the video before posting it online. This led to an explosion of videos and donations for the organisation, with celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Chris Evans and Benedict Cumberbatch participating. Matt Damon also joined in and used the opportunity to promote awareness about the water sanitation crisis and Water.org, the organisation he co-founded to combat the problem. Although a significant portion of the Internet audience was more interested in watching funny videos of their friends and favourite celebrities than they were about ALS research, the campaign succeeded in generating a large amount of awareness and funding. Since July 2014, The ALS Association has received more than $115 million in donations.  In comparison, in the fiscal year ending January 2014, revenue from all sources totalled only slightly over $29 million.

A Mashable survey on the link between charity donations and social media has shown that 68.8% of respondents felt that social media was “extremely effective” or “very effective” for spreading information about social initiatives, with the vast majority of the survey audience claiming to learn about new social initiatives through social media.

  1. Increasing Speed of Response

Whilst social media has a wide reach, it also allows the quick transfer of information. The speed of social media has changed the way we learn about and respond to events, especially natural disasters. Ease of accessibility has resulted in unprecedented numbers of people being reached in real time. In the wake of devastation, charities can create a status, page, Tweet, or post elsewhere to inform their followers of a situation requiring urgent help and donations, which can be shared and spread in seconds. In the past, charities had to rely on hastily thrown together television commercials and getting hundreds of people to call others and hope for donations.

After a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, non-profit organisations used social media to mobilise rescue efforts and to support the community. The earthquake also saw the deployment of one of the most successful text-to-donate campaigns seen at the time. Similarly, when Japan was rocked by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011, millions around the globe used social media to receive updates on the situation and contribute to rescue efforts and donate money for medical and basic supplies for survivors. During the recent 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal in April 2015, Crisis Relief Singapore used Facebook to rally its volunteers and managed to create 5 medical teams that were deployed to Nepal within the next month.   

  1. Rallying of Individuals and Small Groups Around Non-Profit Causes

Social media is enabling individuals to create, join and grow groups around issues they care about outside of the direct control of non-profit organizations. Crowd funding websites such as as GoFundMe and CrowdRise have made it easy for individuals to raise funds for social causes special to them.

Social software design is also accelerating this trend. Facebook Causes is an in-app feature that allows users to discover, support and organize campaigns, fundraisers, and petitions around the issues that impact users and their communities. DonorsChoose launched a feature called “Birthday Give Back” that allows individuals to use their birthdays to champion a social cause – instead of a birthday gift, they can share their page and ask friends to donate to their special cause instead.

The rise of social media has led to a more socially conscious population with the right tools to promote awareness and raise funds for social causes that affect their community.

  1. Ease of Donating

Social media has emboldened people to donate time and money not only by making them aware of issues and needs, but also by providing them with solutions to help. Websites like Just Giving, a charity platform that has so far enabled over 21 million people to raise £1.5 billion for over 13, 000 different charities, has made it easier for social media users to share causes and encourage their friends to donate, even to organisations headquartered abroad. Providing a number of ways to donate online and via text, Just Giving makes donating quick and easy, encouraging more users to do so.

Another way that social media has increased donations is through increased transparency. Donors are becoming increasingly selective of the charities they want to help, and prefer to see where the money they are donating is going. Social media offers non-profit organisations a platform through which they can share project updates and successes with status updates, reports and photographs. Donors expect updates on funds raised through special events for a specific cause, and the increased transparency on the use of funds have encouraged previously sceptical people to donate.

 

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Flickr/CC/TaxRebate.org.uk

By Pia Chatterjee

The recent global economic crisis that had the world run in the opposite direction with its tail between its legs had severe consequences for both businesses and organizations with a social purpose. With drastic cuts in public spending and the extreme fall in consumption on the part of people like you and I, problems related to poverty, health and housing loom just as large as before (or larger, still) and people are hesitant, to say the least, to invest in budding enterprises.

With the change this triggered in the European landscape, social enterprise has emerged an attractive and viable alternative to address some of the issues plaguing Europe. Here are 10 reasons social enterprise is exactly what the region needs right now:

  1. Replacing charities. Most charitable organizations that function off of grants and donations have experienced the crisis firsthand with the lack of public resource to go around. Many of them are experimenting with social enterprise to build their own sustainability and continue their mission without having to depend on handouts. The social enterprise model allows the same services to be delivered at a fraction of the cost.
  1. They’re addressing important challenges like poverty, health, education and housing. The existence of these issues preceded the crisis, and these have only been aggravated since.  Social enterprise gives you a new opportunity to tackle these given that they are “adaptable”, so to speak, to this business model. More generally speaking, emerging problems like climate change that require collective participation and engagement have the potential to be addressed by this form without relying on the state either.
  1. Community involvement. With the collapse of publicly sustained services, people are inclined to opt for self-determination to tackle their difficulties. In the age of social innovation, high-speed technology and neglected social concerns, many youths have found themselves wanting to be entrepreneurial but also work for the common good and public benefit. Social enterprise provides just the platform and amalgam of the two fields to satisfy this pressing need.
  1. Jobs. As the social economy and enterprise sectors grow by the year, so does the number of people to whom they provide employment. Needless to say, this becomes vital in the period following a crisis like the one the world was subject to a few years ago. What’s more, many of these jobs are awarded to people who need it the most or who are usually disadvantaged in the labour market, be it the mentally challenged, homeless or ex-convicts.
  1.  Stimulate demand and motivate employees. Working for the common good or a greater cause tends to provide the required additional incentive to invest in something. Most enterprises of this kind stimulate demand and push consumers to buy products they would otherwise be less inclined to purchase simply because they feel themselves contributing to a larger social or environmental cause. Similarly, it also motivates employees to work for less since they feel their work produces something bigger than themselves that doesn’t necessarily demand the remuneration they would ask for in any other situation. It is precisely for this reason that social enterprises often recruit volunteers, more so than other businesses. Such work environments also tend to report higher levels of job satisfaction.
  1. Cut costs. Companies in this sector do not require investments in areas like marketing to the extent that traditional businesses do. Advertizing costs and other costs are significantly cut down simply because the social and public benefit purposes served create the publicity and demand you would normally need.
  1. Collective participation. Social enterprise encourages the participation of regular people and puts them in charge of the services they receive. This kind of bottom-up approach allows these organizations to appropriately respond to the emerging needs of society without the public sector. Since the stakeholders concerned are not only investors but directly involved in the workings of the company, much work gets done fast, efficiently, accurately and with very strong incentives.
  1. Resilience. – Cooperatives and other types of business models based in the social economy tend to be more resilient in the face of hardship or hostile economic environments. Most people and studies attribute this to the fact that such organizations are strongly-rooted in the community and treat obstacles that are consistent and often exacerbated by crises. Their focus on sustainability makes them resistant to hurdles from the start and offers them a natural armour to shield them from the consequences of recession on the market. These businesses are also very directly steered towards finding solutions to problems rather than towards technical definitions and production, making them likely to have a reason to persevere.
  1. Cards are stacked in their favour. With the present circumstances demanding an overhaul of the European economic system, there has been much talk of creating a new, sustainable, socially-oriented system that moves away from capitalism. The social economy provides just the potential substitute to respect these conditions: it is a model that can answer to the difficulties faced by Europe and survive in the long term.
  1. Transparency. The primary consequence of the economic crisis was a loss of trust. People are reluctant to leave their lives in the hands of others as they did before, and social enterprise proposes an alternative by clearly laying its cards out on the table. People know where their money is going and what it’s being used for, and what’s more, they appreciate the fact that it’s being used to help them and those around them.

 

The global economic crisis starved Europe of much-needed public services at a time where its citizens needed them most. It caused its leaders to realize the continent was in dire need of an economic rejuvenation to finally approach the many social questions that remained unaddressed. In a region that relies substantially on the welfare state, social enterprise does well to swoop in on its white horse to help bring the economy back on its feet.

 

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Flickr/CC/Chris Parfitt | Scented soap at East Grinstead Christmas Festival, 2010

By Pia Chatterjee

 

Shetland Soap Company is a subset of Cope Ltd., a longstanding social enterprise working out of the small island of Shetland, Scotland, since 1998. Cope’s business functions by employing adults with disabilities in the local community whilst offering them varying types of development workshops and activities for them to participate in society to their full potential. Shortlisted for the Best Social Enterprise award at the 2015 Highland Business Awards and part of the final 6 contenders for the Social Enterprise of the Year 2015, Scotland, Cope manages different branches such as Shetland Kitchen Co., Shetland Garden Co., Shetland Home Co. and Orkney Soap. Shetland Soap Co. is an addition to their work just like these.

The offshoot produces handcrafted soaps and other skincare products using a combination of traditional and contemporary methods. They prioritize the use of natural, environmentally friendly and sustainable ingredients to create lovely, unique fragrances aiming to evoke “the smell of the sea, the beauty of the natural environment, and the warmth of the sun”.

Now firmly established and turning over as much as 100,000 GBP, Shetland Soap has focused nearly exclusively on their growth and expansion in the last decade to accommodate the growing number of school dropouts with autism. This expansion has entailed the introduction of different lines of products targeting all kinds of audiences. As a result, you’d easily be able to dig into their men’s line, Black Ice, for body washes, soap bars, shaving soap or foam wash; or even let yourself be tempted by their baby products rich in aloe vera and organic honey to best suit sensitive skin. At the right time of year, you would also be able to give someone a thoughtful gift with their Christmas-themed lines of products – Winter Berries and The Night Before Christmas. Even better, were you to be merely looking for standard products, you would be able to choose from numerous differently-themed categories available on their website here. Your products can be shipped all over the UK and even Europe, charged according to their weight.

All of Shetland Soap’s products abide by the European Cosmetic Regulations of 2013 and none have been tested on animals. Every process – incidentally also explained in detail for all consumers to consult before any purchase – be it weighing, mixing, pouring, bottling or labelling, is performed by members of the staff by hand. Today, this company is going strong, self-sustaining and paying wages. If you’re looking to invest in something that’s always useful, makes for a fantastic gift and help members of a community with difficulties, Shetland is the place for you. Opt for clean production for a cleaner you, today!

 

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Flickr/CC/Jonas Hösler

By Minji Hong

There are many ways for one to contribute to various social causes, be it through making donations, raising awareness, holding fundraisers, or simply signing petitions. Small or big in scale, we can all lend a hand in making this world more peaceful. With the aid of technological advancements over the last few decades, it has become increasingly more globalized by allowing people from one country to help out a cause taking place half way across the globe, or merely expanding their awareness of events taking place far away from home. In light of the famine in Ethiopia during the early 80s, a group of famous American musicians got together to release a worldwide hit single titled “We are the World,” whose proceeds went on to contribute to starvation that Africa had been suffering for a long time. 25 years later, a group of famous artists all over the world convened to produce a remake of the single for the Haiti Earthquake in 2010. They have proved that one can marry music and technology to create a powerful synergy effect in raising awareness and further compel people to take action. So these 3 Arab artists in the music industry have used their talents to release songs dedicated to bringing to light the plight of various conflicts in the Middle East – to show the power of music in bringing about social change.

 

Michael Heart, Website, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook

“It was my way of speaking up about this terrible injustice… Some people march and protest and some people write letters to the powers… I wrote a song; A song that seems to have hit a global nerve and resonated really deeply all around the world.”  

Making his debut in 2008 as a Pop/Rock recording artist, Michael is now widely recognized as a humanitarian singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles. His legacy as a humanitarian artist in the music industry took off with the release of his massive hit single “We Will Not Go Down,” which gave him a phenomenal worldwide recognition for this powerful and moving song that captured the plight of Palestinians in Gaza by having more than 1 million views in Youtube within just a month of its release. From then on, he wrote songs about devastating conflicts and events around the world, those especially concerning the Middle East, where his roots belong. Indeed, originally born in Syria as Annas Allaf, this Syrian-American artist chose to use Michael Heart as his stage name. Although he has worked with many artists as a producer and a songwriter, Michael’s passion for writing songs in support of various causes lives on, with the most recent one being, “What About Us” dedicated towards the Syrian conflict, “Freedom” inspired by the Arab Spring, and also one dedicated towards the victims of the earthquake in Haiti titled “Help is on the Way.”

Flickr/CC/stefano
Flickr/CC/stefano

 

Maher Zain, Website, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook

“My music is a message of Islam. But I want people to understand what Islam is about. It’s a message of peace, brotherhood, humanity, respect, and love.”

Maher Zain is a Swedish R&B singer like no other. He is a Lebanese-born Muslim singer, whose success is admired by and inspires young Muslims that Islam and modernity can co-exist. Not to mention, he is perhaps one of the highest-profile artists in the modern Islamic music industry. He rose to fame with the release of his debut album titled “Thank you Allah,” which brought him a giant success among Muslims throughout the world. The album was awarded multiple platinum by Warner Music Malaysia and Sony Music Indonesia, and also highest selling album of 2010 in Malaysia. He has also gained worldwide prominence for his two humanitarian songs – “Love Will Prevail (#SYRIA),” whose proceeds were directed to Syrian humanitarian relief work, and “Freedom,” inspired by the uprisings during the Arab Spring. Apart from his humanitarian songs, Maher is also famous for his philanthropic activities, including performing at the 2014 Nansen Refugee Award ceremony and going on a tour organized by Islamic Relief for typhoon victims in the Philippines in 2013.

Flickr/CC/AK Rockefeller
Flickr/CC/AK Rockefeller

 

Mohammed AssafWebsite, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook

“I have a goal and it’s not fame. I want to influence people.”

Another real-life example of a rags to riches story, Assaf is using his recently garnered fame and success to contribute to the conflict in Gaza, a place he calls home, a place dear to his heart and soul. Born in Libya and raised in the Gaza strip, this young Palestinian singer first gained public appearance through his participation in Arab Idol, an equivalent of American Idol in the Middle East. His heart wrenching performances won him the title as the winner of the second season of the television competition. From then on, he has continued to proclaim his support for the fellow Palestinian refugees through music, gaining worldwide popularity in the Arab world through his rendition of patriotic Palestinian hymns. Thus in a way,  many believe that he facilitates Arab unity through music, especially for the Palestinian cause. To this day, Mohammed stands as one of the most popular artists in the Arab music industry and strives to use his power to influence in order to bring peace to the region. In addition to being declared as an honorary ambassador by the Palestinian president Mahmood Abbas, he is also the very first Regional Youth Ambassador for Palestine Refugees for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency since his appointment in 2013.

 

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