The Social Enterprise – a 21st century business model

By Natanya Rutstein


Traditionally corporate social responsibility consisted of various (mostly unaligned) organisational programmes and initiatives aimed at social upliftment whilst simultaneously building good corporate citizenship. However, according to the 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Report (, many organisations are beginning to acknowledge the strategic importance and resultant financial benefit of building their internal and external social capital.

According to the 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Report “…organisations today are increasingly judged on the basis of their relationships with their workers, their customers, and their communities, as well as their impact on society at large- transforming them from business enterprises into social enterprises.”

If viewed strategically, these efforts to become a social enterprise can and should be embedded in every aspect of the organisation’s business model in addressing societal trends and inequalities.

What exactly is a social enterprise?

A social enterprise is driven by a greater and meaningful purpose and is committed to the upliftment and interests of all its stakeholders. It is able to balance the achievement of financial growth whilst simultaneously engaging and collaborating with all internal and external stakeholders in a transparent manner. It is always listening to its stakeholders and is aware of and able to manage and respond to the voices of all stakeholders as well as global trends which are impacting the workforce and society as a whole.

Driving forces

The social enterprise is being propelled by some of the following macro forces as explained in detail in the 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Report:

  • the rapid development and adoption of new technologies and its resultant impact on society. (AI, robotics and automation)
  • the shift in power to the individual with millennials leading the game. Millennials in particular, place a much greater emphasis on an organisations level of social responsibility. Their purchasing decisions and choice of employer are largely influenced by an organisation’s social capital
  • the need for greater transparently, social responsibility and fairness due to the interconnectedness of the world and widespread adoption of social media
  • the increasing mistrust that society has of their governments and their expectation of business to step up and redress societal imbalances and issues of concern where they perceive governments are failing at

The road to becoming a social enterprise…

I’m sure that by now you are asking yourself what your organisation can do to increase its social capital and embark on the road to becoming a social enterprise? The 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Report looks at human capital trends which are currently challenging organisations and which embody the social organisation.  The manner in which your organisation approaches these challenges and the solutions and strategies that you implement will ultimately determine your value as a social enterprise. Each of these trends can be  viewed in detail in the 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Report: The rise of the social enterprise.

The annual Deloitte Human Capital Trend reports remain a must-read for every HR professional!

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