Guest Post for Social Enterprise UK: Why Should We Buy Social?

as published by SEUK on SocialSaturday.org

originally posted 13th September 2014.

To celebrate the launch of Social Saturday, it is only fit to pose the question of why ‘buying social’ is so important. As a company based on the concept of buying for social good, we tend to passionately discuss this question quite a bit at GiveMeTap HQ. However, when I ask friends & family this same question, there can be a lot of vague nuances of saving the environment or helping the poor, when actually, there is so much more to it.

Recently, we’ve seen an emergence of businesses that sell products in order to serve their customers as well as produce some sort of social good. This means we’ve discovered a world in which we don’t have to differentiate between making money and helping others. We’ve also seen an increase in people actually buying from these businesses, meaning that this new world could actually work! This is why each of us should ignite this culture of socially conscious buying.

Taking a step back, this prospect can seem a bit overwhelming. How can one person, buying their daily essentials, make that much of a difference? It is actually quite an exciting prospect. For example, according to studies in the US, 51% of Millennials are already changing their buying behaviours away from environmentally unfriendly brands . It is this behaviour and being more conscious of what enters your household, you intrinsically feed this culture to the people around you.

For example, at your next meeting, you may suggest the environmental benefits for your business to swap to a more sustainable printer, or the cost benefits of abolishing plastic cups, improving the culture of responsibility within the firm. You may even share your new way of living with your friends who then start buying fair trade snacks for their children’s lunchboxes and environmentally friendly toilet roll for home. The change in what you purchase is noticed by other businesses that then recognise that they can provide these socially responsible options. This is the ideal we can strive for.

The evidence of this can be seen first hand in the running of our own business. Through a small, simple purchase of buying a GiveMeTap bottle, we have been able to help bring clean water to almost 5000 people in Africa, while people have been able to live more sustainably, switching away from plastic bottles. They then spread the GiveMeTap mission to friends, family and even their workplace, meaning that we can further our impacts as our company grows.

We underestimate the sheer power that we have as individuals who make a choice to buy things and what this translates to. As we’ve learnt from our friend, Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. When we buy a bar of chocolate or a new T-shirt, not only do we have the influence to effect what flavours or prints are released next season, we are exercising the ability to effect how a business interacts with the World. Use your power!

Over & Out

Why I chose social enterprise over the corporate world [as featured in the Guardian]

Published by The Guardian Social Enterprise Network.

Thursday 6 February 2014 07.00 GMT

Sanum Jain Guardian Social Enterprise Career Guardian Social Enterprise NetworkBy this time last year, some of my peers at the University of Manchester had secured jobs at reputable corporations while others had launched their first business or started making travel plans. I was somewhere in the middle, like many students in third year – stuck in a limbo of tedious application forms and not knowing what would become of me after graduation.

So I decided to assess my skills, pinpoint a particular path and find opportunities. I found that I loved writing and social media. I selected PR as a possible route, and came across a GiveMeTap internship. Little did I know that what I had first approached as work experience to prepare me for a PR office job would become a love affair with social enterprise. I now co-run GiveMeTap, heading all communications, PR and marketing at the grand age of 21.

So why did I decide to stay and work for a small social enterprise instead of applying to large-scale organisations, especially when I’m not an entrepreneur? Mainly, it is the sheer fulfilment and job satisfaction that I feel every single day. Some people get this satisfaction through making money and others through their creative expression. For me, knowing that my work is helping people across the world is enough to make me excited to wake up in the morning.

Secondly, by being part of a small team, your role is constantly morphing and every day is different. One day you may be designing a website and the next day you may be talking to journalists. There is no paper pushing, no ‘cogs in the wheel’ and everything you do is integral to the business. Subsequently, you can grow your talents and develop skills you didn’t think possible. For example, I’ve started to learn code, I’ve engaged in sales activity, and I’ve been involved with supply chain operations.

Many graduates leave university seeking stable, long-term employment from a reputable company instead of taking chances on their true passions. However, that security is not guaranteed; the CIPD have observed that turnover rates for young people (especially those caused by redundancy) are significantly high and increasing due to the economic climate. If risk is already an increased factor in the conventional job market, isn’t that further reason for graduates to take their own risks? This includes joining small business, starting out on their own, and being part of socially conscious ventures.

During my journey, however, I have also learned that even if you choose a route that diverges from that of the corporate world, your paths are sure to cross at some point. Instead of working for a large company, you may find yourself working with them, just as GiveMeTap has many corporate clients who involve us in their supply chain. By engaging with these businesses, there is potential to involve them as a vehicle towards success, while helping them to achieve their own social or environmental goals.

Although the perks and prospects of the corporate lifestyle are undisputed, working for a social enterprise opens the possibility of fulfilling opportunity that many don’t know exists. I believe Generation Y can be the driving force towards a future where sustainability and ethics are at the core of every business. Muster the courage, get into gear, and enjoy the journey!