Career Resources

Social Justice in the For-Profit Sector


Social Justice Overview

Corporate Social Responsibility Overview

Social Entrepreneurship Overview

Financial Services and Consulting Overview

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Columbia Resources

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Social Justice in the For-Profit Sector Overview

Social justice can be a part of almost any job in any sector. Many for-profit companies work to leverage their products, employees, and profits to better their community or the world. Some companies go even further and are social entrepreneurs that work to better the world using market-based approaches.

While companies may not have an explicit social justice mission, many companies have projects or foundations that serve social justice causes. Almost all Fortune 500 companies have a charitable arm/foundation. Many major corporations will do social justice projects related to the field of work or industry. For example, General Mills, a food products company, works to address the issues of nutrition and hunger in the community whereas Intel, a company that creates semiconductors, works to promote science and math education and access to technology worldwide.

In this section we will cover the following social justice endeavors:

  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • Financial Services and Consulting

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

The Corporate Social Responsibility Department is a department within a company that works to extend the company’s overall mission by creating policies of built-in, self-regulations. They do this so that the company can have a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere. Corporate social responsibility department officers look to encourage community growth and development, and voluntarily eliminate practices that harm the public sphere, regardless of legality. Those working in Corporate Social Responsibility are guided by the mantra of honoring a triple bottom line: people, planet, profit.


Social Entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurs use entrepreneurial methods to create ventures that provide solutions to social issues. Social entrepreneurs work to create social change by generating profit along with creating social capital in creative and innovative ways. Famous examples include TOMS Shoes, a company that donates a pair of shoes to children in the developing world for every pair of shoes purchased, and Warby Parker, an eyeglass company that donates a pair of glasses to someone in need with each purchase.

Social entrepreneurship can happen at any sector, not just in the non-profit sector, and often works across sectors. It is different from traditional charities because social entrepreneurs look to create sustainable revenue sources and rely less heavily on donors. Social entrepreneurs need to be motivated, innovative, flexible, and creative. Working together in teams with diverse skill sets will be crucial to making any idea or prototype a success. Finally, social entrepreneurs want to use these skills to be a catalyst for social change with a passion for a cause.


Financial Services and Consulting

If you are interested in pursuing a career in finance or consulting, there are many finance/consulting organizations both in the private and not-for-profit sector working towards various social justice causes, particularly combating poverty. Various not-for-profits and for-profits have created an entire subsector of the financial industry focusing on microfinance to help empower those living in poverty. On the consulting side, not-for-profit consulting has been growing as an industry in order to help maximize impact, efficiency, and budgets for non-profits.

Microcredit/Microfinance: Microcredit, which was designed as a means to empower people in poverty while protecting them from predatory lenders, works by building credit, capital, and stability. With this money, they can invest in creating their own businesses, education and nutrition for their children, or simply building assets and a credit history. Microcredit is generally targeted at empowering those who are the least likely candidates for traditional loans such as women or the unemployed. People build up their credit with microfinance starting with a first loan of generally under $100 and building up until they can secure loans from traditional banking institutions. Microfinance is not limited to just one sector. Various not-for-profit organizations, multinational banks, and local banks have microfinance programs.

Microinsurance: Microinsurance, is taking hold as a new method of combating poverty. Microinsurance is focused on offering low-premium coverage to communities. The idea behind microinsurance is that even as people in the developing world accumulate assets, they still need to be protected against natural disasters, crop failure, or sickness. Without these protections, people could easily lose their investments and assets and go back into poverty overnight.

Patient Capital: Patient capital is a term used by the Acumen Fund to invest in social ventures in the developing world. While it is similar to investment done within the developed world, it focuses on long-term rather than short-term returns, and also focuses on maximizing both profit and social change. It differs from microfinance because the investments are much larger ranging from $300,000 to $2,500,000.

Not-For-Profit Consulting: Not-for profit consulting is a branch within consulting focusing on not-for-profits. While many consulting firms have not-for-profit clients, others, such as Bridgespan and Dewey Kaye, focus solely on the not-for-profit sector. Working with these organizations, the tasks and responsibilities will be similar to consulting for other fields; however, some specialized services that not-for-profit consultants provide include helping secure and develop a Board of Directors, guiding the philanthropy for foundations, and planning fundraising drives and campaigns. Not-for-profit consulting provides the critical thinking required of consulting while also providing the chance to help not-for-profit organizations at any stage refine and optimize their services to the community. While many of the requirements and skills are transferable, some firms, such as Jacobson Consulting Applications, require knowledge of the not-for-profit industry as well as the tools that not-for-profits use (such as Raiser’s Edge, a fundraising program) from their consultants.


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Last updated January 2015