Profitable Not-For-Profits & Responsible Corporate Citizens

What does that even mean? I’m not really sure… I just try to think of odd titles so you click on the article  I’m kidding. I’m talking about Social Enterprise (SE). It’s the hybrid business model that allows you to combine strong business fundamentals to make powerful social impact in our world.

When people say there are so many problems in the world my only question is “and what are you doing to change that?” Whether you start a social enterprise, make your not-for-profit or corporation more like a SE, or just support one by buying a product or using a service, you DO have the power to make a positive impact. Let’s look at a few examples.

Lucky Iron Fish ( A safe, effective way to add iron to your diet. Every time you buy one a family in need gets one too and you’re helping eliminate anemia globally. They have been globally recognized by Oprah Winfrey, Forbes, McLean Magazine and move about 10,000 of these lucky iron fish/month in peak times.

“I am a strong believer that businesses have the power to solve some of the world’s most daunting challenges, and the Lucky Iron Fish embodies this with our commitment to improving global health in a socially responsible way.” -Gavin Armstrong, Founder and CEO.

Rivers Edge Developments ( I met with Justus Veldman, CEO, at my office yesterday for a chat. They are a restorative developments company that take distressed industrial properties and revitalize them with a new business. One example of a project they were a stakeholder in was taking the old street lights in Sault Ste.Marie creating jobs for Ontario Works participants who were being rehabilitated from crime program, recycling an old asset, and donating the proceeds to help build a home with Habitat for Humanity. Again, People, Planet, Profit.

Syrian Refugee Project ( I had the pleasure of asking Jim Estill a couple of weeks ago why he pledged $1.5Million of his own money to support Syrian Refugee families into Canada? “Because it’s the right thing to do.” Oh right. Why do people keep asking him that? Shouldn’t it be obvious? If you were running for your family’s life from your war-torn home, would you want someone with the means to help you? Of course. The operation is run like a business though. That doesn’t mean there is a profit, just that it’s not a hand-out program for the lazy. There are proper processes and only catering to those who sincerely want to integrate into Canadian society and contribute in a meaningful way. There is director of screening, placement, and many organizations that are tapped into the program to support the process. It’s a globally recognized proof-of-concept that private sponsorship works. Has Danby been mentioned more than usual as millions of people watch the interviews on CNN, the Agenda, BBC, CTV and dozens of other media outlets? Sure. Is there something wrong with that? No, there is not. Maybe you disagree with me but I firmly believe that if the impact is real, which it is. And the primary motivation is positive impact, then getting some free press from doing an amazing service to humanity is perfectly OK. Don’t we want the good companies to win?

Gavin Armstrong, CEO of Lucky Iron Fish, also serves with us on the Enactus Advisory Board at the University of Guelph in the Center for Business and Student Enterprise (CBaSE). Enactus Canada is shaping generations of entrepreneurial leaders who are passionate about advancing the economic, social and environmental health of Canada

To me it makes so much sense to help reshape every NFP that rely heavily on donations, grants, and other government funding to sustain itself closer to this more economically independent and sustainable model. Similarly the for-profit corporations out there that believe they have the legal mandate to “maximize shareholder value” need to understand that all the life on this planet are their shareholders too; not just the people and companies that hold share certificates. It’s motivating to hear more and more companies realizing this and putting their money where their mouth is.

Whether you’re a Not-For-Profit, a for-profit corporation, a philanthropist, or an everyday working person like myself; Doing GOOD for people and planet is good for BUSINESS!