Businesses need people. To grow and thrive, companies rely on the roles of employees, consumers, and their communities. So why limit the focus solely to money-making?

What is a social enterprise?

Social enterprises are cause-driven businesses that are changing the world for the better. Unlike most traditional businesses, the profits of social enterprises are put towards making a positive social change. Social enterprise examples include: The Eden Project, which reinvests its profits into the charity’s educational projects; The Big Issue, which exists to help homeless and vulnerably housed people help themselves; and our organisation, Madlug, where 100 percent of our profits and assets are locked to benefit children in care (more on that later).

But businesses don’t have to be charitable or community service-oriented to make a difference. The global economy has reached a tipping point where every business, big or small, now has the potential to improve society for the greater good. As regulations on socially responsible business conduct continue to evolve, there’s an increasing demand for companies to look at their wider social impact.

What is social impact?

Social impact is about more than just ‘doing good’. It encompasses all the effects that a business has on individuals or communities. On an internal level, social impact can relate to things like providing employees with high-quality equipment, and giving them the opportunity to volunteer for good causes. On a wider level, it can relate to making sure supply chains are ethical, and ensuring products are bought using fair labour practices, or made using sustainable materials.

CSR and employees

One of the major benefits of solid social responsibility practices to businesses is the increased commitment, affinity, and engagement of employees. The even better news? This usually results in enhanced job performance and fewer absences.

Findings by Esade researcher, Ignacio Duran in Business Ethics: A European Review confirmed that making corporate social responsibility (CSR) a priority helps employees to feel “as one” with their organisation and to find greater purpose in their jobs. Duran says that the research highlights just how impactful CSR initiatives can be. “Companies can be more profitable, employees become effectively committed to their companies, and key stakeholder demands are addressed,” he says.

According to a Role of the Company Survey (an annual poll from MetLife) 85 percent of employees who agree their companies reflect their values described themselves as loyal, while 54 percent said they are willing to go well beyond their work’s scope. That’s compared to 44 percent and 4 percent respectively who say their values and work sadly aren't aligned.

Millennials and Gen Zs

Younger generations in particular are pushing for businesses and governments to mirror their commitment to society, putting people ahead of profits – something explored in more detail throughout Deloitte’s Global Millennial Survey. The research found that both before and after the pandemic, both millennials and Gen Zs remained focused on larger societal issues, with the pandemic reinforcing their desire to help drive positive change in their communities and around the world. 

    A PwC report titled ‘Millennials at work – Reshaping the workplace’ states that “millennials want their work to have a purpose, to contribute something to the world and they want to be proud of their employer.”

    Customer perception

    The impact of CSR goes beyond those within the business, too. Clutch found that 75 percent of people are likely to start shopping at a company that supports an issue they agree with. Sustainability is one of the most valued traits, with 70 percent of customers saying they will pay more for products and services if they protect the environment. Something to think about for those who aren’t already going green.

    A report from Reputation Institute, as published in Forbes magazine, also found that 42 percent of how people feel about a company is based on their perception of its CSR activities. That means that nearly half of a company’s reputation is based on the public’s feelings about what it is doing to support the community.

    The statistics are certainly compelling. But shifting from a focus of business-as-usual to business-with-a-social-purpose is not always easy. If you’re part of a large organisation, for example, you may find its rigid organisational culture and procedures stand in the way. If you’re a small or medium-sized enterprise, you may question how the little resources you have can make enough of an impact. ‘Social innovation’ is a term that describes a business finding innovative ways to address social needs. That’s where we come in.

    At Madlug, we help your business help children in care.

    You might not know it, but in the UK, over 40,000 children enter the care system every year. Most transport their worldly belongings in plastic bin bags or plastic shopping bags, losing their dignity in the process.

    We believe that no child should carry their life in a bin bag or plastic shopping bag, which is how Madlug started. We operate under a ‘buy one, give one’ model, which means that with every Madlug bag you purchase, a pack-away travel bag will be given to a child in care.

    As well as ensuring 100 percent of our profits and assets benefit children in care, we provide your business with professional bags and accessories for new hires, clients, conference events, and more.

    And, to promote your brand while showing that this is a cause you care about, many of our bags offer the option of co-branding with your company's logo. Get in touch to find out how we can help your business.

    Still not sold? Here’s what some of the amazing brands we’ve worked with had to say about Madlug.


    “At IKEA, we’ve been supporting children in need for a number of years, hoping to bring a long-term positive impact on the lives of the most vulnerable young people in our communities. As part of our long-standing commitment to being people and planet positive, this year we wanted our co-workers’ end-of-year gift to make a meaningful and impactful difference. In social enterprise, Madlug we found a perfect partner and one who shares our ambition and values, and a joint aim to provide a better everyday life for children living in care. Through gifting one of their bags to our own co-workers, together we will be donating a total of 12,876 bags to children in care – including to those looked after by our national charity partner Barnardo’s.”

    Find out more about Madlug's partnership with IKEA here.


    “For us, the story of Madlug is something that we want to share, not just with our team, but with other people as well, and this enabled us to do that, some businesses are solely profit-driven, while others like social enterprises are not-for-profit. I think businesses like ours will aim to be in the middle. You don’t have to be a social enterprise to do good—you can make it part of your wider corporate goals. I really value the meaning of Madlug and if we could spread the message that children in care deserve value, worth and dignity with our customers and the 500-odd businesses that we deal with, I’ll be very happy.” - Daniel Glover, Pacem Managing Director and Co-Founder.


    “When I first encountered Madlug, I was shocked to learn that the worldly possessions of children in the care system are often stored and transported in black bin bags. The Madlug bags, with a label saying ‘You are incredible’ remind every child of their value and worth. For GRAHAM, our partnership with Madlug is a natural fit, which aligns with our own commitments to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (namely Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities and its aspirations to make the places where we all live ‘inclusive’ and ‘safe’0. These bags symbolise inclusivity and safety to children in care, and we are proud to endorse Madlug and its message.” - Lorraine Harrison, GRAHAM I.T. Director

    Trek NI

    "I've known Dave for some time and have closely followed Madlug's journey since it began, so when the opportunity arose for Trek NI to collaborate on the outdoor backpack, I was eager to take it. Our two companies share an ethos centred on helping others, so the partnership made total sense. Personally, I love what Madlug do - their work is incredibly important and inspires many people to shop in a way that positively impacts on the lives of young people. I look forward to continuing with Trek NI's support of Madlug going forward." - David McIlroy, Trek NI Founder

    Over to you...

    • Vestd teamed up with Small Business Saturday to produce a free guide to help small businesses grow and succeed. As well as promoting the campaign across social media, they encouraged the Vestd team to do their shopping at local, small outlets that weekend. “Madlug's business model is admirable and proves that business does not have to stand at odds with social purpose,” they said.
    • Creative Wilderness is passionate about sustainability, and prioritises purchasing socially responsible items. “As we move towards more conscious consumerism, I want my purchases to make a positive social impact,” says fouder, Charlotte, who also organises community litter picks and monthly events for conscious entrepreneurs, as well as finding ways to help and support other businesses with good ethics. “It's so inspiring to see Madlug support a mission that is almost invisible. They are proof of how products and purchases can truly change lives.”
    • House Of has made a conscious effort to source all of its packaging in recyclable materials and is committed to offsetting all production emissions into carbon reduction projects. “Our employees believe it is important to work for a company that lives and breathes its own values while taking the wider planet into consideration,” says co-founder, Helen. “Companies like Madlug are doing fantastic work to create a positive social impact with the products they produce, and we look forward to seeing even more social enterprises like this sprout up in the near future.”
    • Lilypads co-owner, Mhairi, says it’s important that the decisions they make as a company are in line with their values. “We sell reusable period pads with a purpose, where for every pack we sell, a pack is also provided to someone in need,” she says. “We are passionate about sustainability and equality and believe that if we can embody both in our purchasing options, we are living up to our values. Business has a big role to play moving forward in changing our consumption habits and behaviours. Madlug has an incredible mission to give children in care the dignity they deserve. The buy one, give one model ensures direct impact and the fact they have donated 20,000+ bags so far is amazing.”

    We’d love to hear how your business is making a positive social impact. Share your thoughts in the comments section below or connect with us on LinkedIn.

    May 17, 2021 — Emma Gibbins

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