Social enterprises told: Mind your P's
For BPI President and CEO Cezar P. Consing, capitalism is blind.
While capitalism fills the pockets of people who know how to play the system, it also leaves a lot of people poorer and marginalized.
Hence the need for the three P’s of social entrepreneurship: people, planet, and profits.
During the recent awarding of BPI Foundation’s Sinag Accelerate and Sinag University social enterprises, Mr. Consing said this nascent trend towards social entrepreneurship sprung forth from years of globalization and the capitalism that fed it.
“We cannot rely on pure capitalism to drive the economy. Because pure capitalism is blind. Pure capitalism has no conscience, certainly no social conscience. People get left behind all the time,” said Mr. Consing.
But still there is hope.
BPI Foundation Executive Director Maricris L. San Diego said the BPI Sinag program aims to help social enterprises focus on these three P’s.
BPI Sinag is a business competition that helps social enterprises scale-up operations and make a bigger impact on the community.
“We have decided to support social enterprises because they have proven to be the most effective channels to promote inclusive growth. By applying proven business principles to address problems in society, they don’t only deliver great social impact and make a difference in people’s lives and the environment; they are also able to do so in a financially sustainable manner,” she said.
San Diego is certainly inspired by the strong and vibrant community that BPI Sinag has created, a community that supports its members in spurring their businesses towards growth.
“The ultimate aim,” she said, “is to build a strong ecosystem whereby all players – whether they be from the government, academe, civil society, other foundations, investors, NGOs, media, etc. – all help each to support social enterprises so more Filipinos are engaged to a shared commitment to make the country’s strong economic growth felt by every member of society, especially the poor and marginalized.”
Meet the experts
Ryan Gersava, founder of Virtualahan, a finalist and beneficiary of BPI Sinag Accelerate, has benefited from this ecosystem for social entrepreneurs.
“Finding experienced and highly skilled people to help in business development is one of our biggest challenges as a bootstrapped tech social enterprise. We don't have enough resources to hire these people so we participated in various start-up boot camps like BPI SINAG to build capacity and meet experts who are willing to mentor us and provide pro bono services,” he said.
Virtualahan provides digital skills training and employment assistance to persons with disabilities. Most of its graduates are employed by companies based in other parts of the world. BPI Sinag served as the launchpad for the company and the flourishing careers of its PWD graduates.
Habi Footwear, which produces fashionable and environmentally friendly footwear woven out of scrap cloth from t-shirt factories, has gained much from the BPI Sinag community.
“BPI Foundation continuously provides opportunities to expand our reach in many ways such as offering free booths at selling events, or invitations to network with distinguished groups like the Harvard Business School Alumni. It is through opportunities like this that I forged different kinds of collaboration for my business and career,” said Janine Chiong, one of the founders of Habi Footwear.
Today her company works with four communities in Quezon City where otherwise unemployed women do all the beautiful weaving.
For San Diego, Virtualahan and Habi Footwear show the beauty of this ecosystem that was created not only by BPI Foundation but all those who participated in the program and initiated their own support groups within the Sinag community.
“Working with social entrepreneurs is not just inspiring but heartwarming,” she said. “What could be more noble than putting up businesses with a heart and purpose? A social entrepreneur does not just think of profit but of the people and the planet so it is much more of a challenge compared to a traditional entrepreneur.”
Indeed a bright future awaits Virtualahan and Habi Footwear.
Virtualahan is developing a Diversity and Inclusion course to help companies integrate PWDs in the office.
It is also working on an HR framework and assessment tool to co-create a more inclusive workplace. Soon it will serve single mothers and disadvantaged youth, too.
Habi Footwear is now expanding into pouches, portfolio holders, and bags under its Habi Lifestyle line of products. It’s is going to be an overall lifestyle brand with exports in other countries.
Its weavers will benefit, too, as the company explores turning the company into a cooperative to increase ownership of the business by their weavers.
Consing said these are the social entrepreneurs that will make a difference in the future of the country.