Every few years a new idea or concept comes along and many business people and entrepreneurs jump on it. Twenty five years ago it was VCR rental stores and many got on that bandwagon and some stayed on too late. That business model of course is no longer even possible. Whether it be a trendy business like that or everyday concepts like yogurt stores, it takes more than a “cool idea” to be a success.
What brought this all to mind was the recent meltdown of Solyndra, the Fremont, California-based manufacturer of cutting-edge solar panels technology. After getting $500M+ in federal loan guarantees that business an embarrassment of federal support and a glaring example of a company that was funded based on misrepresentation.
Granted they are a severe example of how the trendy Green Movement is not always profitable, but it raises the question of whether being Green is a sure fire money maker. The reality is that the price of many green components, including photovoltaic cells is dropping and within the not too distant future that industry may be self sufficient without government insolvent. There certainly ARE many great opportunities to excel and profit in this arena, but be sure you go in with eyes open and a solid idea of what it takes to create a profitable business.
So– reality check. We all want to be green and support our planet. We all want to “give back” and be responsible Earth citizens. The term “Social Enterprise” is another band wagon that many want to ride, but what does it mean? And does it help your bottom line?
Is a business that encourages their employers to get involved with charitable causes a Social Enterprise? If a business gives generously to certain causes, does that make them a Social Enterprise? Generally the answer to both is no. To be defined as one the company must be focused on social causes intentionally, and not as a by-product. I see many companies calling themselves Social Enterprises as a marketing ploy and that is a misuse of that name.
So for budding entrepreneurs that want to be ahead of the curb, be sure your Green venture makes business sense by itself and for members of the public looking to support Social Causes be sure to verify that the company is not misrepresenting itself for their own gain. You must be 100% transparent in your true efforts to make a difference and make the world a better place.