Social entrepreneurs get creative to beat impact of Covid pandemic
By Reuters | February 2nd 2021
As Covid-19 forces businesses worldwide to reinvent themselves, social entrepreneurs are getting creative to help communities hit hard by the pandemic - from a Ugandan medicine-on-wheels service to upcycled face masks made by vulnerable women in Peru.
While recessions and falling revenue are affecting ethical businesses too, many such companies are proving particularly adept at innovating and finding new opportunities.
“Social innovation is the DNA of social entrepreneurs,” said Vincent Odhiambo, regional director for Ashoka East Africa, a non-profit working with social enterprises - businesses aiming to do good while making a profit.
“They are accustomed to tackling complex social problems and therefore design innovative solutions that create better conditions of life,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation to mark Social Enterprise Day last November. Started by Social Enterprise UK, the sector’s trade body in Britain, and held annually on the third Thursday of November, the day aims to highlight the sector’s global impact. The campaign has since expanded to other parts of the world.
With the pandemic taking a heavy toll on vulnerable communities around the world, companies with a social focus are even encouraging some traditional businesses to have a rethink.
“We have seen them tackle perennial challenges ranging from access to healthcare and education, remote working, economic resilience all the way to transparency or fighting fake news,” Odhiambo said. In Asia, social enterprises have turned to making face shields and protective suits for doctors and linking those who have lost their jobs to careers in sustainable fields.
As movement curbs remain in place across many cities, a surge in online deliveries has led to a mountain of plastic waste, prompting Malaysia’s The Hive Bulk Foods to start collecting discarded packaging for reuse.
The social enterprise, a zero-waste chain selling products from refugees and local organic farmers, said items like bubble wrap quickly filled up its warehouse. It donates the packaging to other businesses so it can be used again. “We realised everyone on the planet was also ordering online and that online packaging was delivered with an insane amount of plastic waste, often more plastic waste than the goods delivered,” said founder Claire Sancelot.
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