A saying goes, “take from society, give back to society”. Nowadays, most corporations have acknowledged the importance of contributing to society after achieving commercial success. But the question is: how can corporations assume their social responsibility and in what ways can they make contributions to society? Some corporations donate money to charities, wishing to help disadvantaged children in rural areas, while others hold beach clean-up events, encouraging their employees to volunteer. Monetary donations and volunteering are the most common ways that corporations show their dedication to public welfare. Apart from these two methods, however, are there any other ways that corporations can assume social responsibility?
With the rise of social enterprises, many corporations have realised that by assisting social enterprises to prosper, they can also help mitigate the social issues with which they are concerned. Therefore, many corporations have started to invest resources into the development of social enterprises. The rest of this article will focus on examples of how corporations collaborate with social enterprises.
1. Corporations utilise their expertise to provide assistance to social enterprises
Each corporation has its own expert knowledge and techniques. If corporations can use their expertise to assist in the development of social enterprises, their corporate core values can be further highlighted. For example, KPMG Taiwan has a service team dedicated to assisting social enterprises, providing newly-founded social enterprises with consulting services in relation to articles of incorporation and finance. It has helped Neways2021, which has revitalised the plum industry in Siaolin Village, and Duofu Care & Services, which provides a wheelchair-accessible shuttle service. Lien Hwa Industrial, the biggest flour mill in Taiwan, has started working with Rejoice Community Supported Agriculture Group, the owner of the smallest commercial wheat field in the world. Lien Hwa Industrial not only grinds wheat for Rejoice, but also teaches it knowledge and techniques related to storage, transportation and the sale of wheat flour. Through their joint efforts, they have managed to reduce the problem of Taiwan’s low food self-sufficiency ratio. DBS Bank also provides advice on finance and banking to the social enterprises it supports.
2. Corporations provide preferential programs, helping social enterprises grow
As social enterprises must find a balance between social causes and commercial benefits, they are faced with relatively high cost pressures in the early stages of business operations. If corporations can offer preferential programs to social enterprises, these will certainly be very helpful to them. For example, DBS Bank gives social enterprises a higher-than-normal interest rate for their savings, guarantees them with concessional loan interest and relieves or reduces their bank charges. HCT Logistics provides social enterprises with a preferential delivery service via a business platform called “17 Support”.
3. Corporations purchase the products and services provided by social enterprises
Purchasing is the most direct form of support that corporations can give to social enterprises, and, at the same time, has a positive influence on society and the environment. For example, Google orders fair trade coffee from Okogreen to stock its company pantry. AU Optronics and some other corporations purchase products from Buy Nearby that have been produced by environmentally-friendly small farmers. DBS Bank buys hand-made artistic glassware as gifts for its customers from the Victory Potential Development Centre for the Disabled, as well as Mid-Autumn Festival presents for its employees from Love Family One Social Enterprise.
4. Corporations invest in or sponsor social enterprises
Generally speaking, corporations believe social enterprises are not good targets for sponsorship or investment. On the one hand, corporations cannot deduct sponsorship fees from tax and, on the other, returns on investment can be very limited. However, if corporations are willing to invest in them, they can greatly help social enterprises achieve social impact. One domestic example is DBS Bank’s provision of grants to social enterprises with great growth potential. An overseas example, the South Korean SK Group, treats investment in social enterprises as part of its practice of corporate social responsibility.
As the proverb goes, “if you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn.” The same logic can be applied to corporate social responsibility and making a difference. Investing part of corporate resources in supporting social enterprises and hence creating a sustainable environment for their development is also a good way of contributing to society. Social Enterprise Insights invites those corporations that are concerned with public welfare to participate in the development of social enterprises. Together we can overturn our old ideas about public welfare and find new ways of contributing to society.