So how can you create a career out of making positive global change? Sustainability and social enterprise are the new frontiers of business innovation.
People, planet and profit.
It’s often referred to as the ‘triple bottom line’, and these days, it’s almost impossible to separate sustainable business practices from good business sense.
“There is a profound change underway in the role that business plays in society,” says Associate Professor at UNSW Business School and Education Director of the Centre for Social Impact, Leanne Piggott.
"More than any other sector, business has the potential to scale and sustain market-based solutions to unmet social and environmental needs.”
This means that sustainability is at the forefront of the mission and vision of many businesses, as organisations consider the ways in which they can contribute to social, environmental and economic longevity.
More than any other sector, business has the potential to scale and sustain market-based solutions to unmet social and environmental needs.
Centre For Social Impact
Why sustainability is good for business
Sustainability may be a modern buzzword, but many companies have realised that sustainability goes far beyond ‘being green’.
Through her research and contacts in the business world, Leanne has seen that sustainability is increasingly at the forefront of innovation, in the pursuit of both bottom-line and top-line business returns.
It’s no longer considered a choice for businesses, as employees, customers, and shareholders demand that business play a role in global sustainability, and an important role at that.
“Ignoring sustainability is no longer an option,” she says. “We know that businesses are taking huge steps in sustainability such as by reducing their carbon footprint or creating shared value and giving back to their communities. And when they do take steps, they are rewarded by happier customers, more loyal employees, and even lower costs by decreasing inputs in a company’s value or supply chain,” she says. “In addition, the process can generate additional revenues from more innovative products.”
The opportunities for professionals
Leanne says all levels of society have embraced the importance of sustainability – from government to consumers.
“Governments are increasing regulation for sustainable outcomes. Therefore, it’s important for professionals to be educated in this area,” she says.
“Meanwhile, consumers want more than just a product. They want to know that their purchase is helping ‘do good’, whether it be by helping the world to become sustainable or otherwise. We know that when consumers are given a choice between a product that does this, and one that has no additional benefit, they will choose the sustainably-aware option. It’s good for business.”
This global focus on sustainability has led to great career opportunities for highly-skilled professionals with a global outlook. Particularly those looking to help businesses maximise profit, while still meeting social, environmental or community goals.
The role social enterprises play in global sustainability
A social enterprise is a ‘for profit’ organisation that has a social or environmental mission at the core of what it does.
“Social enterprises might have different legal structures and reinvest or redistribute profits in different ways. But they are all characterised by an integrated business model that enables their social or environmental mission to be realised through their direct business operations and not by business profits alone,” says Leanne.
Driven by the desire to find innovative solutions to systemic social problems, and local and global environmental challenges, social entrepreneurs have facilitated collaboration across traditional public, private and not-for-profit sectors. They’re using business thinking to reach people in need, utilising markets for social good.
“By driving change at the local level, social enterprises play a key role in the pursuit of global sustainability,” says Leanne.
“Sustainability in the business context means coming up with innovative products and services that not only serve the customer but also positively impact global issues.”