Around one month ago the movie Veteran hit movie theaters in Korea. In the movie, there is one scene we have to take a closer look at. The scene is about Yoo Ah-in, who is one of the biggest Chaebol in Korea, and he said, “This country is always treating people who manage a company like a criminal.”
Like what he said in the movie, when it comes to companies, we barely associate them with the idea of the goodness. Instead, it is more natural that we are talking about their badness. For instance, it is not uncommon to see companies that are related with tax evasion, unfairly have exploited workers, and even continue their production despite being aware of defects in the process and/or product.
Yet, it is unsafe to identify all companies with the idea of corruption because some are quite different. Of course, those companies too earn money as the other companies, but that is not the end of the story. They gain profit by doing something special. That specialty is not only for themselves, but for everyone. We are talking about social enterprises.
So, who are they?
Unlike what we normally have considered as a company, a social enterprise is, to put it simply, a good and honest company. They are engaged in the business of producing and selling products while pursuing a social purpose by means of creating jobs for the disadvantaged and tackling social issues. These organizations quite differ in that the main purpose of them is enhancing the quality of local residents’ lives by performing social objectives while an ordinary enterprise’s chief aim is pursuit of profits.
Social enterprise & Korea
After the "IMF" financial crisis in Korea, which caused a significant number of people in Korea to become unemployed, the government started a public laboring project and self-subsistence program to deal with it. However, those measures did not get connected to stable jobs for many workers. To make matters worse, Korea has slowly entered into an aging society, yet still developing, without hiring. Thus, people started to cry out for an increase of social services. To get through this complicated situation, social enterprises, which can complement both the market’s and government’s failure, gradually were being talked about as a solution.
Finally, the Social Enterprise Promotion Act was approved in December 2006 and was put into effect in July 2007. According to the Korea Social Enterprise Promotion Agency, there are 1382 social enterprises as of 2015. In Korea, social enterprises are mainly characterized into three types: Providing Jobs, Providing Social Service, and/or Contributing to Community.
The social enterprise in Korea; Beautiful parade of Beautiful Store
The word "donation" appears to be far from ordinary people, rather it is thought to be only a possession of the rich. "Beautiful Store," however, does not believe so. This is a not-for-profit organization where citizens donate items or products they no longer use. Those are then sold to consumers and those profits are returned to community to help more needy neighbors. Under the belief that they could create a beautiful society by mere change and actual action, they pursue that through thinking about others first rather than themselves and trying to protect the environment.
The social enterprise in the world; Magic of Fifteen Restaurant
This is not currently in education, employment, or training; therefore, we welcome anyone despite not having a home and being in poor condition. It is okay for people to have dropped out of school, and we welcome anyone who has an experience of being in prison as well.
This is the part of recruitment notice of apprentices in Fifteen Restaurant in London. These simple sentences directly show what this restaurant is seeking. Fifteen Restaurant is one of the most famous and successful social enterprises in the world, which is organized by Jamie Oliver. He is well-known as the star chef in London, strongly believing that the magic of the food could transform lives. To realize his belief, he began his project of supporting poor kids by giving them job training and ultimately job opportunities. One of the CEOs of Fifteen Foundation said, “Don’t give us that 'not for profit' guff”, claiming that Fifteen is not a charity, instead they are a corporation which earns money by delicious food and wonderful service. With that profit, they could contribute to disadvantaged and poor kids to be educated and be self-supporting.
Bill Gates pointed out corporations will collapse alongside human-kind, if they exist only for their profits. Therefore, he believes that it is high time for companies to build a rule of coexistence in markets not only for profits, but for public good. Again, social enterprises are simply "Good Company." Though, since they are pursuing financial, social, and environmental purposes simultaneously, there are many obstacles to overcome in order to be successful. Above all, their success is primarily in the hands of ethical customers who are able to recognize the value of them and actually purchase their products and services. So, we are not supposed to only complain and talk about companies’ badness. Instead, we have to take a look back at whether we are good and wise consumers. If consumers are good, there is no way for companies to be bad.
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