Diversity and Social Businesses

Businesses are mostly set up to satisfy customers’ needs, make returns on investment, create employment and generate wealth for all stakeholders and the society. Globalization has opened up the migration space and given rise to internationalization of business. In order to further cement their business objectives, organisations are embracing diversity as a means of reaching out to the growing purchasing power of the middle class across the Asian and African continents. This has led to the evolution of diversity management as an outshoot of equal opportunity and diversity studies.

Diversity management is aimed at achieving a double target of profit making as well as reducing inequality in the workplace. The latter which is often neglected at the expense of the profit  making motive. Organisations that however are socially oriented might experience what I call ‘clash of interests’ as the main objective could be overshadowed in the struggle for survival in a murky business environment.

Social businesses for examples those created to give succour to immigrants or those to help return aged people back to work are also required to publish their books and post impressive results for their investors. Some of these organisations do rely on charities and donations; and even enjoy tax cuts. However, it is also plausible to argue that the donations and cuts might not just be enough to keep the business going which may necessitate jettisoning the social objective for a more business-like approach.

This lays credence to the seeming ‘capitulation’ of the social justice theory to the business case theoretical underpinning of diversity management in the academic circles. The real life business scenario tend to give direction of what is taught in our Business schools. If things remain as they are, social business might just be a mere nomenclature of a somewhat for-profit entity based on its mode of operations and management.

It is exemplified by the way we are fast at displaying our equal opportunity and diversity policies but slow at implementing the content from the HR perspective. Another testament to the disturbing trend is the diminishing presence of the Third Sector organisations. They are socially driven entities and different from the conventional business outfits with a focus on filling the space created by the failure of governments and alleviate the pains caused by profit-oriented organisations.

With the ever widening inequality in wealth distribution and the strain in meeting everyday needs, where do people with special needs and those that are ‘disadvantaged’ turn to for respite?