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Social impact companies

A recently published book collects theory and practice of these new forms of production organisation

Combining profits with attention to the social impact of a company’s activities: an important goal, already achieved by many businesses, though many others are still far from it. An important goal that comes into sight when, within the context of production organisation, a different vision about production starts making inroads. Reading this joint literary effort curated by
Giorgio Fiorentini
, senior professor in Social Enterprise Management at Bocconi University, truly helps one grasp all that’s needed to reach a synthesis between both the economic profit and the social profit that can derive from corporate activities.

Tutte le imprese devono essere sociali (All enterprises should be social), curated by Fiorentini and with the contribution of several prominent researchers, begins with a statement: all enterprises should be social. A statement not meant as a suggestion but rather as an instigation to make this customary, a necessary condition for the development of the socio-economic system and the sustainability of the ecosystem. Not a choice, then, more of an obligation.

Indeed, profit and social impact are two sides of the same coin, and this is the book’s leading theme: social impact companies. Each side complements the other in terms of sustainability, and both are the “stuff” profit and non-profit companies are made of.
Profit (relative profit maximisation) and economic and financial balance are obtained by good company management and, here, making a positive social impact comes to be the essence of entrepreneurship, without aesthetic or reductionist connotations, as well as the necessary condition for the development of the system.

In other words, a successful business is one that uniquely integrates “social ends” (as well as environmental ones) and combines economic productivity with social and territorial productivity, rather than one merely gaining profits for its shareholders.

However, as the book points out, measuring and evaluating social impact is important, not only to obtain a baseline for a business’ social rating, but also because social impact acts internally (e.g. corporate welfare) and externally (e.g. commitment and development of the territory as “space” and “community”), and both lead to a profitable social reputation.

This is the common thread linking the 22 contributions by researchers and professionals gathered in this work that take into consideration, for instance, the place of social enterprises within corporate theory, as well as borderline cases, hybrid social businesses, the relation between for-profit and non-profit companies, the value derived from volunteering activities, and much more. All laid out after Fiorentini’s long and broad introduction, which frames a theme that is, after all, a continuously evolving one.

Tutte le imprese devono essere sociali (All enterprises should be social)

Fiorentini Giorgio (curated by)

Franco Angeli, 2021