Demystifying Social Enterprise and Inclusive Business

By Alexa Roscoe, viagra dosage Founder, pill The Social MBA  

This blog was originally featured on The Social MBA  and is reposted with permission. You can also follow The Social MBA on twitter @Social_MBA.  

Alexa Roscoe

Alexa Roscoe

This year’s Skoll World Forum on Social Enterprise only confirmed the accelerating levels of interest in social business.  The event brought together representatives from the private, viagra 40mg public and non-profit sectors, all of whom agreed on one point:  inclusive business is the future.  However, there is one point which lacked any degree of accord: namely, what exactly inclusive business is.

Newcomers to the field might be forgiven for feeling a bit lost.  Inclusive business, and the related disciplines of social entrepreneurship and social “intrapreneurship”, have evolved faster than practitioners’ ability to articulate exactly what it is they are doing.

This blog is the latest instalment in my personal crusade to demystify the jargon surrounding the field of business and development.  It does not try to attempt to provide definitive descriptions; rather, it outlines the key elements of each term for which there is general agreement as well as those for which there remains some disparity.

Inclusive business is perhaps best defined by what it is not: corporate philanthropy.Inclusive Business and Corporate Responsibility:


The term arose from the need for a differentiator from the more widely known “corporate social responsibility”, or CSR, which had too great an association with company giving which benefited society but had at best a tenuous connection to core business practice. Think of a pharmaceutical company sponsoring a theatre production.  Good cause? Yes. Inclusive business? No.

Rather, inclusive business refers to core business practice- design, sourcing, production, marketing or delivery- conducted in a way which benefits society through core business practice.    It can be thought of as overarching strategy to use business for good, an umbrella term encompassing the narrower tactics of social entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship.

While broad enough to include most activities, there is some debate around the term’s use, particularly in regards to whether inclusive business should include all activities which create social good (e.g. creating jobs) or just those proactive steps to go beyond minimum legal requirements (e.g. paying a living wage rather than the minimum wage.)

CSR remains in use, but increasingly less so, and mainly within corporate sourcing teams with the fairly narrow mandate of social auditing. CSR may or may not be used synonymously with corporate philanthropy.

Key Elements of Inclusive Business  

What it is What it is not What it may refer to in practice
–          business practice which benefits society

–          an overarching term to include all models which contribute to this goal, including social entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, and ethical sourcing

–            Philanthropy or charity –          Taking measures to mitigate harmful practice

–          The nuts and bolts of the industry such as social auditing

Social Entrepreneurship:

 If inclusive business can be thought of as an overarching strategy, social entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship can be thought of as two specific tactics to achieve it.

The key element separating the two terms is this:  whereas social entrepreneurship involves forming a new venture with joint commercial and social purpose, social intrapreneurship involves working within an existing company to enhance its social impact.

Let’s take social enterprise first.    While sometimes used as a synonym for inclusive business, in fact there are relatively clear parameters on what constitutes a social enterprise; namely, a venture which:


  • prioritizes social impact above profit;
  • receives a high percentage of income from commercial, rather than charitable, sources; and
  • in some definitions,  reinvests profit earned back into the enterprise or other activities of social value (rather than paying out to shareholders).

However, there remains a fair degree of ambivalence as to where exactly these parameters should be set.   Should a social enterprise prioritize social impact to the extent it risks going out of business? What percentage of its income should come from commercial activities, and how soon?

Does impact invest constitute venture capital or just another form of grant?

For a more in-depth exploration of the term, The Overseas Development Institute dedicated a  working paper to the topic.

Key Elements of Social Enterprise  

What it is What it is not What it may refer to in practice
–             A venture which  receives a high degree of income from commercial, rather than charitable, sources but which prioritizes social impact above profit


–          A charity without any commercial income

–          A company which produces some social impact (e.g. jobs) but which retains the primary goal of maximizing profits

–          A charity with some commercial income alongside other funding sources

 Social “Intrapreneurship”:

While social enterprise is increasingly well-defined, social intrapreneurship may well take the highly contested award for most jargony term in the entire field of business and development.

Like social entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship is one tactic to achieve inclusive business outcomes. Unlike entrepreneurship, social intrapreneurship involves working inside existing companies which may achieve and even seek to maximize social impact, but which still seek financial profit as their primary objective.  Unlike corporate philanthropy, intrapreneurs also remain intrinsically linked to the company’s core business activities.

Key Elements of Social Intrapreneurship  

What it is What it is not What it may refer to in practice
–          Working within a company to improve social impact through core business practice


–          Setting up a separate business

–          Corporate philanthropy

–          Taking measures to mitigate harmful practice

–          The nuts and bolts of the industry such as social auditing


In addition to the speed at which the field has evolved, there is another reason the definitions of inclusive business, social entrepreneurship and social intrapreneurship remain nebulous: the three increasingly intersect.

This convergence, to borrow Accenture’s phrase, can be taken as a promising sign of inclusive business moving from the purview of a few niche specialists into the mainstream.      The increasing professionalization of the field requires ever more specific terminology.  Inclusive business is the future. Let’s make sure we define it well.

This blog was originally featured on The Social MBA  and is reposted with permission. You can also follow The Social MBA on Twitter @Social_MBA.