“Cooperative enterprises help build a better world.” That’s the slogan for the UN International Year of Cooperatives 2012, which was launched just a few weeks ago, and it’s a salient reminder that there are alternative ways to ‘do business’ in a world ravaged by economic crisis, climate change and undemocratic leadership.
Cooperatives are business enterprises owned and controlled by the very members they serve, able to balance the pursuit of profit and shareholder value with the needs and interests of their members and their communities. In assigning 2012 as International Year of Cooperatives, the UN has recognised the impact that cooperatives are having in poverty reduction, employment generation, sustainable development and social integration.
The slogan above could just as well apply to social enterprises. Today is Social Enterprise Day. A day of celebration and profile-raising for organisations that are harnessing the power of business to create a fairer world.
The UK is recognised as a world leader in social enterprises with 62,000 UK based-social enterprises contributing over £24 billion to the economy and employing 800,000 people, while simultaneously addressing the real needs of communities.
Not sure what you can do?
One thing you can do, according to Social Enterprise UK, is make a difference through your everyday spending decisions. When you’re buying your morning coffee, doing the shopping, at the gym or paying your gas bill, you can opt to buy from social enterprises.
You could also engage with the Public Services Bill. On 25th November, MPs will be voting on this Bill in the House of Commons.
This legislation proposes that Government spending – and the Government is the largest buyer of goods and services in the UK – should be done in a way that provides social value, so communities benefit from public spending.
This would mean more Government spending could be directed through social enterprises, creating a virtuous circle which enables social enterprises to thrive and ensures local communities really reap the benefits from Government spending.