By Professor Andrea Zorzi, University of Florence
This blog is part of a special series exploring subjects at the core of the Human-Centred Business Model (HCBM). The HCMB seeks to develop an innovative – human-centred – business model
based on a common, holistic and integrated set of economic, social, environmental and ethical rights-based principles. Read more about the HCBM here, and check out an event about it here
The HCBM project originated in 2015 within the World Bank’s Global Forum on Law, Justice and Development and is now based at the OECD’s Development Centre.
Charitable institutions are an established concept. So is the concept of cooperatives that advance some social goals through business activities. What is relatively new, however, are two related ideas: one is the idea that the pursuit of social goals is the business itself, and the other that the business pursuit of social goals does not mean giving up profits.
In the past decade, many initiatives burgeoned to give legal form to social business. It was necessary before to adapt the legal structures of for-profit companies to not-only-for-profit goals. Adapted standards, however, may not always be effective or may expose entities to legal risks. Now, many jurisdictions provide legal forms for ‘social enterprises’, which are generally expected to pursue only ‘social, environmental or community objectives’, rather than both for- and not-for-profit goals and to reinvest most of their profits. The most important difference between social enterprises and other non-profits is that social goals are pursued by carrying out the business rather than giving out money, goods and services to the needy.