In recent years, people around the world have become more aware of the social and environmental impact of the choices they make, from the products they purchase to the jobs they choose, to the organizations they support, manage, or invest in.
Consumers want more from the products and services they purchase and the businesses behind them. They want companies to be more responsible in their practices and to act as good stewards of their employees, communities, and the environment. Many are willing to switch brands or pay more to assert these convictions.
Businesses are increasingly trying to become more socially and environmentally responsible, and even shift their purpose toward prioritizing social or environmental goals. Many corporate executives regard sustainability as key to the future success of their business, and want governments to set policies to make it easier to operate their business more sustainably.
Job seekers are looking for companies that are dedicated to corporate social responsibility and higher purpose.
College graduates and millennials are willing to take a pay cut to work for an organization that has values which are aligned with theirs, and to have a job that allows them to make a positive difference in the world.
Entrepreneurs prefer to create businesses that are not just about profit, but about making a difference against social and environmental problems they see in their communities and around the world.
Investors are looking to place their money into businesses that behave responsibly and make a positive impact on the world.
Policy makers and economic developers are looking for solutions that accelerate job creation and growth without degrading the environment or widening the gap between those that benefit from the economy and those that don’t.
Numerous studies bear witness to this changing mindset. People around the world are clearly demanding more from organizations. They prefer to engage with businesses that do no harm, or better yet, do a great deal of good. And organizations are answering the call. This groundswell of demand has led to the rise of a number of significant movements over the past few decades, including responsible and impact investing, conscious consumerism, corporate social responsibility, social entrepreneurship, sustainability, fair trade, organics, and more.
These demands have also fueled the rapid growth of the fourth sector, and are the reason behind the popularity for-benefit organizations have been gaining. By design, for-benefits are intended to give everyone -- consumers, employees, managers, investors, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders -- choices that better align with their values.
These demands are mostly going unmet… the supply of organizations that satisfy these demands is extremely limited relative to the magnitude of the demand. The fourth sector is ideally positioned to provide the supply in response to all these demand signals, however, it can’t get to scale without its ecosystem being strengthened.
There is huge unmet demand for more for-benefit organizations, and therefore, by extension, for the ecosystem elements that support those for-benefit organizations.
My hope is that in 2017, the fourth sector—the emerging ‘for-benefit’ sector of the economy combining the private sector’s market-based approaches with the public and nonprofit sectors’ social and environmental aims—will strengthen and become a force in healing our democracy.”
– Lisa Kleissner