Have you always dreamed of becoming a conscious, change-making entrepreneur but haven’t known where to begin? New entrepreneurs within the conscious business space can sometimes get lost in wanting to do the most good in as many areas as possible. Knowing what niche of conscious entrepreneurship is most closely aligned with your personal values and motivations will help you to focus your energy, more clearly envision your dream organization, and give you better insight into specific ways you can grow your idea forward.
Social entrepreneurs are specifically focused on social goals and creating social change. If this sounds like you, you don’t just want to make a product or a service, you want to intervene for good at a personal level! These entrepreneurs’ mission is to achieve social change primarily through helping individuals or groups.
Within this space, social entrepreneurs most frequently focus on specific issues like economic and civil engagement, law and rights, and the environment from a societal point of view. Research shows that the majority of social entrepreneurs’ organizations often provide personal services like training, networking, educating, and counseling, and seek to develop and deepen social support networks. Social entrepreneurs also tend to be especially attuned to the need for collaboration between people and larger groups in our transition towards a more equitable society and so seek to fulfill this need.
Environmental entrepreneurs—or “ecopreneurs”—are historically the best well known of the conscious entrepreneur types. Financial investors tend to like them because their successes are often easily described using numbers. (For example, it’s easy to see on a spreadsheet how switching to biodegradable packaging can prevent a specific number of tons of waste from reaching landfills.) By contrast, longer-term social improvements tend to be more difficult to describe even though we need both to transition towards a more just and sustainable world.
Ecopreneurs frequently focus on sustainability-oriented innovations (SOIs). These tend to take one of three forms. First, these innovations can be new or enhanced processes, like using cleaner production methods. (Think reducing the use of environmentally damaging chemicals when creating fabrics and other materials for a fashion line.) Innovations can also be in an organizational form, like changing routines within a business or the way that a management team is structured. Here your team may take on a more “flat” and egalitarian way rather than more traditional, hierarchical structures. Finally, these innovations can also take the form of product or technology innovations—like eco-designs—that help the environment by reducing or totally avoiding harm to natural environments. If these types of innovations sound like your type of thing, you’ll probably use tools like life-cycle analyses and eco-labeling standards to achieve your goals.
Sustainable entrepreneurs fit the space between social and environmental entrepreneurs; they’re ones to seek new opportunities that nurture or restore both ecological and social environments instead of remaining neutral or causing harm. Out of the three conscious entrepreneur types, sustainable entrepreneurs focus the most on recovering an overall balance between nature, society, and economic activities. If this is you, you’ll tend to borrow business ideas from both social and environmental entrepreneurs since you want to want to make a dual impact: using personal interventions and sustainability-oriented new ideas to add value to society while also creating larger-scale structural changes within our world.
About the author: Âri de Fauconberg is a researcher in strategy and sustainable entrepreneurship. She firmly believes that we can thrive in our present generation without compromising future generations’ ability to flourish and meet their own economic, social, and environmental needs.
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