Fairtrade the role model for Social Enterprise

The most successful social enterprise ideas must become part of the corporate sector to succeed, says Robert Ashton, one of Britain’s most successful social entrepreneurs.

“The Fairtrade story is a good example. The idea grew from a niche market in ethical and alternative stores until it was taken onboard by corporate food suppliers. It now has an important role in supporting third world agriculture,” said Mr Ashton, who is managing director of Ethecol Merchant Services.

“The way to make a difference is to introduce a social element into corporate business because without it you simply don’t have the buying power,” he said.

Mr Ashton went on to say that he hoped that ethical card transactions could become an integral part of corporate fundraising for the third sector.

Ethecol raises funds for charities and good causes by acting as a payment gateway and donating every time a customer makes a purchase with debit or credit card.

“It’s a genuine win, win situation,” said Mr Ashton. “The trader receives a cheaper rate and their designated charity receives a donation with every purchase. The only people who miss out are the payment gateway companies and the banks who overcharge for their services anyway.”

Charities publicise Ethecol’s services amongst their supporters which means the business does not require an expensive sales force or advertising company.

“Ethecol is a good illustration of how corporate social fundraising can work. For social enterprise to become as synonymous with corporate finances as Fairtrade has we need a stream of good ideas and imaginative social entrepreneurs,” said Mr Ashton.


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