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For-benefit enterprises are characterized by 1) a business method, and 2) a purpose statement. In other words, a for-benefit enterprise has a “core commitment to a social purpose embedded in its organizational structure”, and simultaneously conducts legitimate business activity consistent with its social purpose and stakeholder responsibilities. Some have argued that there is more than a blurring of the line occurring, but rather organizations are converging towards a “fundamentally new organizational structure [blending] social purposes and business methods: a fourth sector”.
At the same time, a fully supportive ecosystem of a fourth sector, such as with appropriate legal structures, is not yet in place. Therefore, these ‘hybrid’ entrepreneurs have been operating “within the constraints of the three sectors”, often requiring them to compromise their objectives and/or to deplete resources innovating new processes. This indicates the need for government and other stakeholders to improve access to infrastructure in order to optimize this type of economic activity.
For the For-Benefit organization to move from an idealized model to widespread cultural reality, support in the law will ultimately be required”
Organizations within the for-benefit sector both generate economic activity and contribute towards adapting to and mitigating our world’s many social and environmental challenges. The emergence of the fourth-sector exemplifies how environmental/social sustainability and economic sustainability are not only consistent concepts, but rather, can effectively bolster the initiatives of the other.