Do you know what is common to companies like for example Tam-Silk oy, Lumituuli oy, Arctic Smart Villages oy in Finland, Unicus, My Dream Now, and Rag2Rug in Sweden, Sonido and BlindArt in Latvia, and Scult in Estonia? It is not the sector, not the business form, size, or revenue generation model either. But they still have something that most businesses don´t.
In this article, we introduce nine enterprises that could be seen as inspiring examples of companies that do something good by doing their business. All these companies work in different sectors: Tam-Silk oy produces textiles and clothing, Rag2Rug hand-made rugs, and BlindArt unique art and handicrafts; Lumituuli is a wind energy company, Arctic Smart Villages oy, Unicus, and My Dream Now focus on consultancy, Sonico is a call center, and Scult is an expert organization in the field of preventive health care, physical activity and sports. They have different business forms, and they differ from each other by size, business idea, and by their revenue generation model.
What these companies have in common is that they all have a social mission. How should the social mission be understood? A social mission can refer to any social problem, e.g., basic human needs, providing services to groups or regions where purely commercially oriented enterprises have no interest, environmental issues, or social justice.
Beneficiaries, clients, or target groups can be specific groups locally or globally or just common good. EU defines that social enterprises have a social or societal objective of the common good which is the reason for their economic activities (European Commission 2019, 18) Moreover, in social enterprises the profits are mainly reinvested to achieve this social objective (European Commission 2019, 18). Social enterprises can also have a particular governance model (European Commission 2019, 18).
The social mission of the companies introduced here vary: Lumituuli oy, for example, produces and promotes wind energy, whereas Tam-Silk oy wants to bring the textile industry back to Finland and make it environmentally and socially sustainable.
Other examples focus more on people: The mission of Arctic Smart Villages oy is to benefit individual residents and municipalities in sparsely populated areas by creating smart housing solutions that are based on the shared ownership model. My Dream Now, in turn, wants to contribute to the better inclusion of young people, especially refugees, into society and to the working life as well as to reduce segregation, discrimination, and youth unemployment.
Also Rag2Rug, Sonido, and BlindArt offer jobs for minorities but they all have a different approach: Rag2Rug employs refugee women and uses only recycled materials, whereas Unicus recruits IT experts who have Asperger.
Towards new learning experiences
Since social enterprises have both economic goals and a social mission, specific competences are needed. iSEE-project (LAB 2021) creates new learning materials and will launch a new aligned course on social entrepreneurship for degree students in LAB University of Applied Sciences, Riga Technical University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, and University of Tartu. Later on, international education is developed for social enterprises and for any enterprise interested in social impact as well.
Anna Pajari (MSc., MSc in Bus. adm. & Econ.) works as a senior lecturer at LAB University of Applied Sciences in the Business unit. Her specialization area is Corporate Social Responsibility. In the project iSEE – Innovating Social Entrepreneurship Education she works as a specialist.
Heidi Myyryläinen (MSc in Bus. adm & Econ.) works as an RDI specialist in LAB University of Applied Sciences in the Business unit. In the project iSEE − Innovating Social Entrepreneurship Education she works as a project manager.
European Commission. 2019. Social enterprises and their ecosystems in Europe. Updated country report: Finland. Author: Harri Kostilainen. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. [Cited 1 Oct 2021]. Available at: https://europa.eu/!Qq64ny
LAB. 2021. iSEE. Innovating social entrepreneurship education. Project. [Cited 13 Dec 2021]. Available at: https://www.lab.fi/fi/projekti/isee-innovating-social-entrepreneurship-education
Image 1. PeterDargatz. 2012. Dargatz, P. Tuulimylly, taivas, kuu, turbiini. Pixabay. [Cited 7 Dec 2021]. Available at: https://pixabay.com/fi/photos/tuulimylly-taivas-kuu-turbiini-50512/