Social entrepreneurship combines a social orientation and an entrepreneurial approach. It is a business solution to a social problem, a balance of social goals and a commercial component, where money is not an end but a means to achieve these social goals, allowing an entrepreneur to remain stable and independent. As a rule, the solution to social problems is attractive for businesses for reasons of high demand, low supply in the market, support from the state and authorities, and the opportunity to earn a good reputation in society. For the successful implementation of any business project, both commercial and social, the financial stability of an enterprise in social entrepreneurship is necessary; this criterion is fundamental. Only under these conditions does a socially-oriented business differ from the traditional charity. World experience shows that in entrepreneurship, the emphasis is shifting more and more to not only earn money but also to solve social problems. More and more investors are investing in socially-oriented companies (Gupta et al., 2020). As a result, every company must meet the requirements of social as well as environmental responsibility if it counts on the support not only of the target audience but also of investors, authorities, and activists.
BioLite is a company founded in New York in 2006 that focuses on producing various autonomous energy sources with broad diversification of products for this purpose. The company’s activities are aimed at the comfort, ease of use of their products, and working with helpful electricity (BioLite – Our Story, 2021). As a result, the company’s mission and vision are focused on pressing social and environmental issues related to energy. To be precise, the company aims to reduce its CO2 emissions by 2025 by providing access to its products to tens of millions of people in need (BioLite – Mission, 2021). BioLite helps many people in Asia and Africa, whose households are cut off from the resource, gain access to electricity. In addition to stoves and heaters, the company develops a variety of solar-powered lighting and other home appliances (BioLite – Our Story, 2021). This paper will examine in detail the organization’s critical issues in the context of social entrepreneurship, the effectiveness of the company, and the opportunities that will help remove the identified barriers.
Effectiveness and Strong Sides
Initially, the company developed as a startup that offered a technological solution to create a more convenient portable oven. BioLite has retained this line of products dedicated to the outdoors. However, with the company’s growing popularity, it became necessary to meet the requirements of social and environmental responsibility. In 2008, the BioLite founders realized that their developments could help solve global problems: many people are forced to make fires every day to prepare food, which leads to a considerable number of premature deaths (BioLite – Our Story, 2021). The company took up this business, thereby starting social entrepreneurship to solve acute social problems of the lack of electricity in the regions.
Considering in detail the strengths of the company, the following can be distinguished. BioLite provides services and products in countries where the government does not have the necessary resources. In addition, their services are aimed at improving health indicators in, particularly problematic regions. With a strong reputation, BioLite has a consistent brand strength enhanced by a pioneering advantage in several segments. By bringing innovation to the energy development available to ordinary people, the company has drawn attention to a pressing environmental issue. Finally, by going to the aid of poor and underdeveloped regions, BioLite also highlighted the social side of the issue.
As a result, the company fully meets all the requirements of social entrepreneurship and responsibility. Studies show that the introduction of such technologies into life reduces the risks of mortality and the authorities’ costs for maintaining housing conditions (Pillarisetti et al., 2017). Consequently, demographic characteristics are improved, which is also confirmed by studies, for example, from Ghana (AeNgibise et al., 2020). The directly related environmental issue is also partly addressed by the use of clean and renewable fuels, which also positively impacts health (Carrión et al., 2020). The complexity of the implementation of technological features, in fact, allowed BioLite to enter the market with a low supply: practically without competition. Nevertheless, despite the many positive aspects, the company faces some problems that directly impact its efficiency and operations.
Problems and Weaknesses
The component of social responsibility has many advantages for the company’s reputation, while it is far from always for financial reporting and business. BioLite’s financial performance showed rapid growth until 2016-2017, when the company conquered new international markets, but the growth has slowed down (Biolite Metrics, 2021). The number of employees is decreasing, as is the company’s total assets in terms of the current ratio (Biolite Metrics, 2021). This fact is connected with pandemics, the introduction of various restrictions that imply isolation, and, as a result, people go hiking less often. In addition, new promising products that could affect the current market of practical electricity have not appeared in the product line for a long time.
Environmental problems now stand out as the main trends in the activities of the world community. However, funding for companies like BioLite is not as apparent as it could be, primarily due to corruption risks (Sovacool, 2021). Considering the relatively low paying capacity of the population in problem regions where the company’s activities are concentrated, a threat to the organization’s financial stability is created. Moreover, the problem of mistrust in the provided devices stands out due to the mentality and peculiarities of traditions of different peoples (Bødker, 2017). In order to restore the company’s growth rates, as at the initial stages of its activity, when income, turnover, and gross profit grew by more than 5-10% every year, it is necessary to look for sources of financing (Biolite Revenue, Growth & Competitor Profile, 2021). The following section summarizes the main capabilities of the company in this context.
Considering the company’s many patents and adherence to an innovative policy, new environmental developments in the field of energy consumption will be relevant in many areas of activity. As a result, BioLite can direct its services both to the private sector of companies focused on technology and energy and the municipal and state ones. Many food industries are shifting to renewable energy as part of green programs (Sarkodie & Owusu, 2020). Due to global climate problems, this transition will soon become a mandatory requirement in many countries (Gatto & Drago, 2021). Consequently, BioLite could fill this niche, given that in many countries, manufacturing is still struggling to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or is just beginning to switch to renewable energy sources (Sarkodie & Owusu, 2020). This activity would allow diversification of the company’s products, would contribute to the growth and new financial injections, and not contradict the current vision and mission. Considering the company’s experience working in hard-to-reach areas in more developed countries, the implementation of energy sources will also proceed quickly and efficiently.
In addition, in addition to working in the private sector and diversifying services, BioLite can also focus on its reputation. There are many different grants from governments that encourage environmental action, such as the Saudi 2030 Vision. Energy is high on the agendas of many countries due to resource constraints and rising global temperatures (Gatto & Drago, 2021). These grants primarily include financial support for ambitious and environmental projects. BioLite has strengths in this area and can apply proprietary technologies and patents for cutting-edge designs. This activity will also contribute to maintaining a high level of reputation, entering new markets, profitable brand advertising, and, as a result, improving the company’s financial situation.
Finally, leveraging its core strengths, BioLite can geographically expand. International development has become much more complicated in a pandemic, but many niches are free on local markets. Further development in Africa and Asia provides more opportunities both for reputation and financially, especially in Arab and East Asian countries. The wrong way to develop the company will be to obtain large loans, albeit as long-term obligations, since in the absence of a competent development strategy, the company, as a result, may end up in a debt hole. Given the high social responsibility, it is impossible to expose such a large number of employees around the world to huge risks. The volatile economic conditions around the world only exacerbate the current difficulties in financing BioLite. Nevertheless, the described opportunities and recommendations open up a field of activity for the company, in which the risks are much lower than in maintaining the current situation.
Social entrepreneurship is not the most profitable type of entrepreneurship, but it brings a solid and good reputation for the company’s brand, based on which it is also possible to make a profit. In the case of BioLite, whose strengths are just sharpened on various positive aspects of social entrepreneurship – improving the quality of health, working in regions where the authorities cannot provide the entire population with the necessary resources in the right amount – all these activities have made BioLite an association with quality, usefulness, and ecology. Considering that the company diversifies into the sphere of outside recreation and assistance to the regions, the possibilities lie in the plane of the application of their technologies. The multitude of patents and experts who have made these technologies a reality can create larger-scale products for industries necessary for the transition to renewable energy sources. A company’s reputation can help win government support in many countries on the same basis, supported by environmental goals. Finally, the horizontal expansion of the company and the presentation of the brand in other countries, including developed ones, can help BioLite gain new customers and secure the support of any higher authorities with the power of funding. It is the only area where the company is experiencing difficulties, but it can cause a global recession, crisis, and even its closure if no action is taken now.
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