“Corporate Social Responsibility.” “Creating Shared Value.” “Triple Bottom Line.” While these terms vary slightly in meaning, they all describe philosophies of market-based business aiming to be… good. Good to people, good to the planet, good to their shareholders. The goal of this article is to introduce you to some examples of social entrepreneurship, and demonstrate why it’s important, geographically speaking.
First though, I would caution everybody that we have to think critically about companies that claim interest in the common good. Philanthropy and token environmentalism (greenwashing) are constantly being exaggerated by companies that want the added social value of being seen as “green” and “socially responsible.” The best educators in this department have been the Yes Men, a group of social satirists who expose corporate hypocrisy by imitating companies. One hilarious example is this presentation about recycling human waste into McDonald’s hamburgers (great video for mature kids and adults who aren’t currently eating a meal).
Our first two examples are about real initiatives to recycle human waste. Unlike the Yes Men’s satire, these programs present real solutions to social and environmental problems. I grew up with composting toilets and outhouses, so for me it’s normal to talk about human waste. But, if it grosses you out too much, go ahead and skip to number three.
1. Sub-Saharan Africa: In Kumasi, Ghana, Ashley Murray and her company Waste Enterprisers turn wastewater treatment ponds into fish farms. The waste is full of nutrients, so the fish don’t need any additional food. They filter the water and grow bigger until employees harvest them to sell in local fish markets. Murray’s company is currently piloting many more ideas of how to re-use waste. Right now, it relies on grants, but it’s not a non-profit. Someday, it hopes to be not only self-sufficient, but also profitable.