Making a difference through social enterprise: from saving bees to creating jobs for young people

Measuring impact is one of the most important criteria and commitments by which social enterprise demonstrates the impact and change it creates in society. The ability to measure impact is also a sign of social enterprise maturity.

Why is impact measurement important?

The importance of measuring the impact of social enterprise is highlighted in a study commissioned by the Lithuanian Social Business Association (LISVA) (2019) and in the OECD report „Measuring Social Impact for the Social and Solidarity Economy“ (2021). Unfortunately, most social enterprises do not yet measure impact in their early stages.

However, it is important to underline that social enterprises that have no intention of measuring their impact are viewed with distrust.

Measuring impact is important so that businesses can assess for themselves whether they are actually solving problems and know whether they are achieving their core mission. It is also important to be able to report on the impact to the public, stakeholders and potential investors, who are increasingly asking for impact assessment as a form of accountability.

Today, there is a shortage of professionals with the expertise to help develop methodologies for measuring social impact. Given the wide range of activities and impact creation areas of social enterprises, it is not possible to talk about a standardised impact measurement scheme, but it is worthwhile to develop qualitative standards that can guide social enterprises in measuring impact.

Other Baltic and Nordic countries face similar challenges in measuring impact. Impact measurement is a challenge for social enterprises because it is often unclear how best to measure their impact with limited resources and when. And the social innovations they create often do not have standard ways or indicators for measuring impact.

„Working directly with social enterprises, we find that they often struggle to measure the impact they create. This is why we initiated the „Green Impact Measured“ project to respond to the needs of the social business ecosystem and to help social entrepreneurs operating in the green economy to measure the impact they are creating using innovative tools. In the spring, a training guide for impact measurement experts will be prepared and publicly available, inspiring and guiding social entrepreneurs in the right direction to assess possible indicators and methods during seminars. „Case studies of other successful social businesses measuring impact will serve as an effective learning tool,“ says Viktorija Bražiūnaitė, Director of LISVA and project manager of the „ Green Impact Measured „ project.

Good examples to learn from

Lithuanian social entrepreneurs who are already involved in the green economy have a unique opportunity to learn about successful business stories in their neighbouring countries and to gain ideas and experience.

The results of the project: a situation analysis and a compendium of good examples and inspiring stories, are now publicly available:

The Impact Self-Assessment Toolkit and the User Guide for Impact Measurement Facilitators will be made available at the end of the project in the very near future.

Variety of experiences in different countries

The project partners BrainLog (Denmark), The NEWDOOR (Latvia) and SwIdeas (Sweden) visited four countries – Denmark, Sweden, Latvia and Lithuania – to learn more about the work of social enterprises, find out more about their governmental and local government support and how social enterprises assess and measure the impact they create.

They also sought to share good practices by presenting unique examples of social business in their countries.

Lithuanian social business was represented by „#Miestolaboratorija“, whose founders Agnė Marudinaitė and GodaSosnovskienė told the guests about the green community education centre they founded in Antakalnis in 2016, inspired by the green culture of Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Berlin. „Our aim is to educate local residents about sustainable lifestyles that take into account responsible use of environmental and energy resources and modern urban gardening.

„The City Laboratory is a non-governmental organisation operating as a social business,“ said Ms Marudinaitė. Milda Paukštė, the organiser of the sustainable workshop, said she was inspired by her grandparents’ and parents’ tradition of repairing things they liked instead of throwing them away. Her denim recycling studio „#Denim Diaries“ produces unique denim products: bags, aprons, accessories, and decorated denim garments. „Kamilė Mažrimė, Head of Communications and Partnerships at the #ROCKIT Centre, introduced the activities of the Centre for Financial Technologies (fintech) and Sustainable Innovation. „Rockit“ connects the fintech and sustainable innovation start-up community in Lithuania and spreads the word about their achievements outside the country.

The project participants analysed and presented in their study the experiences of 8 social businesses: Burka, „OWA“ (Latvia), „ATERBRUKET“ and „FOLKETS POPS“ (Sweden), „Mes žydim“ and „TEXTALE“ (Lithuania), „NORDJYSK FODEVARE OVERSKUD“ and „COMEBACK“ (Denmark). All of these social enterprises specialise in the green economy and focus on responsible use of the environment and energy resources.

Jobs for young people

Comeback, based in Denmark, produces elements for building facades from recycled wood. They collect surplus wood from various contractors, process it, produce new products, and then their partner takes care of selling them to the construction industry. „Comeback“ works with „Gentræ“, „Stark“, A. Enggaard and BurntWood. The Danes also produce quality garments, ensuring sustainability in production and involving young people in the process, who are given flexible jobs and financial support.

The impact of the Comeback is reflected in reports on the social and financial impact on Danish society. The project is expected to deliver a 30% return on investment every year over five years.

Products in take-home packaging

„Burka“, a store in Latvia, is a shop where you can buy food without packaging, or rather, packed in your own containers. Being able to buy exactly the right amount by weight helps and teaches shoppers to live „greener“. „Burka“ stands for pollution-free living, against unnecessary consumption of resources and finances, and promotes sustainable development, environmental friendliness, ethical consumption and lifestyles.

The company promotes a green lifestyle through anti-waste initiatives and by giving people the opportunity to exchange resources free of charge: bring jars, dishes, leftover candles, boxes, etc.

Despite its limited resources, „Burka“ measures its impact. One indicator is the money saved by using reusable packaging, such as bags for different cereals or nuts, which are not thrown away but reused. Another impressive result of the impact Burka is creating is the involvement of the community in the circular economy.

Employment of socially vulnerable people

Textale, a social business operating in Lithuania, is a circular fashion start-up. „Textale“ collects second-hand clothing and home textiles, prepares them for reuse, sells them, distributes them to social organisations, repairs them, reprocesses them, and actively seeks further recycling solutions. „Textale“ promotes green and circular practices and offers a wide range of activities and services. For the purpose of measuring social impact, it monitors larger international organisations that are exploring the reuse and recycling of waste from a social economy perspective. Key indicators it measures include job creation in the reuse sector, the inclusion of socially vulnerable people, and community education activities.

A crown for ice cream for bee conservation

„Folket Popss“ in Sweden donates one Swedish krona for every portion of ice cream sold to bee conservation. „Folkets Popss“ ice cream is made from a sustainable mix of ingredients such as local fruit, organic wild fruit and berries, as well as produce that would be unusable if not bought in time.

„Folkets Popss“ measures the impact it creates through the following three indicators: the amount of money raised to save bees through the sale of ice cream. The second indicator is the number of kilograms of fruit that can be saved without spoiling, in other words, without being wasted. The third indicator calculates the amount of CO2 that would be saved if the fruit were not used and had to be disposed of.

The „Green Impact Measured“ project is funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office in Lithuania’s Nordplus Adult 2022 programme.

Source of the article –

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