Hong Kong’s social enterprises have become world leaders

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 October, 2016, 12:15am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 October, 2016, 9:33pm

Social enterprises have been developing well in Hong Kong over the past decade. The number of social enterprises has grown more than 50 per cent from four years ago to 574 now – with 80 per cent of them still in operation and 60 per cent being profitable.

These social enterprises are world-leading both in terms of number and operational soundness. The scope and mix of participants have also been expanding, initially from the social welfare sector but now to different business circles, young start-up entrepreneurs and even retirees that are all devoted to cross-disciplinary cooperation among citizens, business, government and academic sectors for the common good.

Social enterprises are not merely conscientious or benevolent entities; they are also welfare operations that work according to market mechanisms in an effort to help marginalised groups to reintegrate into mainstream society, establish self-value and to achieve upward mobility. The success of a social enterprise is generally determined by three aspects: addressing unmet social needs; its profitability and sustainability; and, most importantly, the capability to exert social influence.

Hong Kong Social Entrepreneurship Forum chairman Patrick Cheung Yick-lun has pointed out that tax money or benevolent donation might lead to wealth redistribution, but it does not help to create new values or make correction for damages.

Undersecretary for Home Affairs, Florence Hui Hiu-fai, has also remarked that the number of social enterprises was not the core concern – the key issue lies in helping them grow stronger and the government will assess the effectiveness of their social impact as it helps them develop.

First introduced in 2006, “Benefit Corporation” or “B Corp” is a new kind of business model with community welfare as its guiding principle, in which enterprises will be encouraged to actively achieve sustainable development for both the environment and society as they strive for profitability. The B Corp “revolution” is highly anticipated and is expected to grow ever stronger in Hong Kong with the combined driving force of the government and various sectors and industries.

Dr Eugene Chan, president, Association of Hong Kong Professionals