Business is mostly about one goal: profit, profit, profit. As high a profit as possible at as low a cost as possible. However, this kind of economic activityis often neither good for the people involved nor for our planet. That is why there are now many companies that want to do business differently and whose fundamental goal is not profits, but the highest possible social or sustainable impact.
fairafric is one of these so-called “social businesses”, or “social entrepreneurships”. Our primary goal is not to make as many profits as possible or to pay out high dividends. The primary goal of fairafric is the creation of qualified jobs in Ghana and thus a social change in the chocolate industry, which is still heavily marked by neo-colonialism. We want to achieve this goal with the greatest respect for all involved and the highest possible degree of sustainability.
Social Businesses – Businesses for a fairer and sustainable world?
As already mentioned, social businesses are not about maximizing profits, but about acting as positively as possible for society and the environment, in other words having a so-called “social impact”. This social impact can be achieved in many ways and in many different areas. The inclusion of people with disabilities, the integration of refugees or sustainable urban and rural development are just a few examples of social areas in which social businesses are active. fairafric is primarily active in the area of poverty alleviation and global justice, because our goal is to move value creation to West Africa, to create well-paid jobs and training positions and to pay cocoa farmers fairly.
Social Businesses can also differ greatly in their size, financing or legal form. From the association to public limited company (plc), everything is represented here. fairafric was originally founded as a GmbH (German version of the limited liability company) and was converted to an AG (German version of the plc) earlier this year. This way we were able to open up even more financing possibilities and thereby increase our social impact.
It is important to note that unlike non-profit organizations, social businesses are not or only partially financed by donations. Their main income is generated by the products and services they offer, just like traditional businesses. In our case, that would be the sale of our organic chocolates. Due to the social impact as a primary goal, social businesses thus represent a kind of hybrid version between the classic economy and the non-profit sector.
More and more companies around the world – especially young ones – are opting for this hybrid version. Many of them are organized in projects or clubs to motivate, inspire and engage each other in the pursuit of a fairer and more sustainable economy. We would now like to introduce you to four projects of which we are members, and which help us to constantly develop and realize our social and ecological goals.
The “Social Entrepreneurship Netzwerk Deutschland” (SEND e.V. in short) is the largest association of social entrepreneurs and supporters in Germany. Over 420 social enterprises and nearly 300 supporting members have joined the organization since its founding in 2017. The aim of SEND e. V. is, on the one hand, to carry out political education work and to educate society more about the topic of social entrepreneurship, and on the other hand, to connect social enterprises with politics, businesses and other like-minded founders. For this purpose, SEND e.V. provides a lot of information and also conducts an annual survey among all members on the current state of social entrepreneurship in Germany. If you are interested in social entrepreneurship, you should have a look at their website.
A social business would not be social if it did not include all people. It is therefore important to us at fairafric that people with disabilities can also apply and work for us. Since 2021, we have been a member of Inklupreneur, a project to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities, especially in the start-up scene. Inklupreneur helps companies set inclusion goals and implement them. To do this, they work together with experts who support the participating companies in their transition to a more inclusive workplace. The respective goals are written down as so-called “pledges”. fairafric, for example, has committed to filling three inclusive workplaces by 2024. Active work with Inklupreneur will probably not start until next year, as they are currently only active in Berlin. Until then we are not idle regarding our goals and are also working together with Pfennigparade.
Pfennigparade is a foundation that has been working for inclusion and social participation of people with disabilities in all areas of life for almost 70 years. Its goal: a society in which diversity is the norm. For Pfennigparade, inclusion means: “Individuals do not have to adapt to the majority society, but rather the social conditions are designed in such a way that everyone can participate and be a full member of society. Ideally, the definition of normality then no longer plays a role. Diversity becomes a matter of course.”
To achieve this, they work with a wide range of institutions and companies in the fields of education, work, housing, health and leisure, where they are committed to inclusive structures, spaces and living environments. fairafric has also been cooperating with the foundation since this year. The first steps we took together was to send out all our vacancies on a mailing list with 600 recipients of the Disability Advisory Council, as well as a so-called “shift change”. The exchange day took place in September and was, as our finance manager Jonas describes it, “an eye-opener.” We had the opportunity to spend a day at Pfennigparade and at the same time welcome people with disabilities to our office in Munich. In the process, we were able to learn an incredible amount and sensitize ourselves to the problems and obstacles that people with disabilities would face in our office, but also in other areas of our company. We are currently talking about the next steps towards an inclusive working life at fairafric.
Economy for the Common Good (ECG)
As the last project for a more social economy, we would like to introduce you to the Economy for the Common Good. It is a civic movement that is represented throughout Europe and wants to establish the concept of the Common Good Economy in business, politics and society. Companies that want to apply this concept can create a so-called Common Good report, which is then extensively reviewed. For this report, data is collected internally, and the corporate activities are described and evaluated in relation to the 20 areas of the common good matrix. All areas are also checked again externally by the ECG with on-site audits.
In May 2021, we joined the ECG as a member and are now working on our Common Good report. For this, we must disclose, for example, all our business relationships, our handling of funds, our measures for sustainability and health care and send a questionnaire to all our supplier companies. We are also planning ECG audits in Germany and Ghana, where all our activities relating to the Common Good values and their stakeholders will be put to the test. In the summer of 2022, we intend to be the first multinational business to be allowed to call itself a “ECG Company with a Balance Sheet”. This will enable us to send a strong signal to other companies and speak out in favor of economic systems that place the well-being of all people and nature at the center of their activities.
You have now gained a little insight into what it means to be a social business. We at fairafric think that there should be many more companies of this kind and that the economy as a whole system should place much more emphasis on acting for the common good. Especially in terms of sustainability, a systemic rethinking is of great importance if we still want to consume chocolate in the future. For a better and more sustainable economy, all people must be involved and treated with respect. As a social business, we see ourselves as having a responsibility here and are very happy about initiatives such as Pfennigparade, Inklupreneur, SEND e.V. or the ECG, which help companies to build bridges between business and the common good. Together we prove that these are by no means opposites!