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Business for Good

Group melds academia, community to support social enterprises

special feature: Sustainable World

Part of a special feature showcasing Memorial’s leadership and expertise in a more sustainable Newfoundland and Labrador, with a particular focus on economic and social sustainability.

By Susan White

What does it mean to do good? Can businesses be ethical? How can non-profit organizations make money to support the work that they do?

A new group involving academics, students and community members is attempting to answer these and other questions surrounding business and sustainability in order to develop some best practices for the social enterprise sector.

Dr. Tom Cooper, left, and Kim Todd in front of Hungry Heart Cafe, a social enterprise in St. John's.
From left, Dr. Tom Cooper and Kim Todd in front of the Hungry Heart Cafe, a social enterprise in St. John’s.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Business for Good is a public engagement and knowledge mobilization initiative that will help businesses support healthy communities by addressing the challenges and opportunities for social enterprises.

Social, cultural or environmental missions

Social enterprises use business practices to pursue social, cultural or environmental missions as opposed to being solely focused on profit. They can operate independently or as the revenue-generating arm of a non-profit organization.

“Sustainable communities are defined by three things: No. 1: the environmental; No. 2: the social; and No. 3: the economic.” — Dr. Tom Cooper

Dr. Tom Cooper, an associate professor at the Faculty of Business Administration, is one of the members of Business for Good. He says the primary goal of the initiative is to help build sustainable local enterprises.

“Sustainable communities are defined by three things: No. 1: the environmental; No. 2: the social; and No. 3: the economic,” he said.

“The great thing about Business for Good is it’s trying to tackle all three, and it’s tackling all three while at the same time helping local organizations, whether it be social enterprises or small businesses, and telling organizations that these are some of the practices we see out there, and to help consumers decide what they want to buy, as well.”

Guide to the Good

Business for Good also includes Nicole Helwig, manager, Centre for Social Enterprise; Dr. Sean McGrath, departmental chair, Department of Philosophy; Dr. Natalie Slawinski, associate professor at the business faculty; Kyla Bruff, PhD student in philosophy; Perla Hernandez, graduate student in the Department of Political Science; and Kim Todd, founder and chief executive officer of thegreenrock.ca ~ Live Sustainably N.L.

The group will gather and share information from existing organizations through surveys and polls, discussion panels, in-class presentations and a student research project at Guide to the Good, a social enterprise that supports local businesses via an online directory.

Guide to the Good will also generate revenue for thegreenrock.ca, a non-profit that raises awareness about ways individuals and families can live more sustainably in their homes and communities.

Snapshot of academic and practice

Once enough data has been compiled to develop best practices, the information will be shared via a public lecture and potentially academic publications.

Ms. Todd says the combination of academic expertise and practitioner experience is key to supporting the burgeoning social enterprise sector in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“How can we make this happen? I think we make it happen by bringing us all together.” — Kim Todd

She says Business for Good melds the academic and the practical in a “snapshot”: identifying some key learnings that can be shared with social enterprises and with students of social enterprise.

“All of these smart, theoretical brains are seeing these possible connections and recognizing the potential of social enterprises to make the world a better place,” she said.

“And, we also have social enterprise practitioners like me, who are doing our bit every day, and we’re facing challenges like: How are we going to get to this? How are we going to get to that? What’s the next step? How can we make this happen? I think we make it happen by bringing us all together.”

Dr. Cooper says it is a “really interesting” partnership that’s being led as much by business as it is by Memorial.

“The ethics of business is traditionally a theoretical subject and this is an example of where we’re trying to make it a practical concern and solution for local businesses.”

Business for Good is supported by an accelerator grant from Memorial’s Office of Public Engagement.

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