Why social entrepreneurs can soon look forward to more customers

The Good Search on a mobile phone
How does The Good Search work? Watch the video

Research shows that a majority of people in the Netherlands would prefer to buy products and services from social entrepreneurs. However, many admit they find it difficult to locate and identify social entrepreneurs. That’s why ABN AMRO has developed a search engine called The Good Search, which puts social enterprises right at the top of the list.

Social enterprises are the new game changers, and not just because their numbers have grown so fast in recent years. These businesses work to provide solutions to social problems like inequality in the labour market and climate change. It’s precisely for this reason that they resonate so deeply with the general public, as confirmed by the results of recent research carried out by ABN AMRO in which 1,000 Dutch consumers took part. More than half (56 per cent) were aware of the existence of such enterprises, while even more (66 per cent) said they would be happy to buy products and services from them. The sticking point, it seems, is that only 10 per cent said they had ever consciously made a purchase from a social entrepreneur.

Low visibility

“Research shows that brand recognition is a real problem for social enterprises,” says Eric Buckens, Director of the ABN AMRO Social Impact Fund. “These businesses have what I would call a goodwill factor for Dutch consumers, but have yet to reap the benefits, unfortunately. Visibility is really what’s lacking. Nine out of ten people in the Netherlands say they generally just don’t know whether a particular business is a social enterprise or not. But nearly 80 per cent of respondents said they would welcome greater visibility. We believe social entrepreneurs are crucial to achieving sustainable social objectives while ensuring the growth of the Dutch economy. Our rationale was that improving their discoverability would have an immediate, beneficial impact on these businesses. And so we set out to find a solution: a social search engine.”

Better discoverability means more customers

When you enter a search term into The Good Search, special social search terms are added automatically to your search. The search engine also determines whether there’s a suitable match in the Dutch social enterprises database. “This type of search truly helps those looking to consume in a different, more socially responsible, way,” says Buckens. “At the same time, we wanted to do something that would benefit social entrepreneurs because brand recognition is often a problem for them. So we’ve also teamed up with Social Enterprise NL to give a large group of these entrepreneurs tips to improve the discoverability of their websites. It’s an initiative that works both ways.” What impact does Buckens think The Good Search will ultimately have? “It’s raising the profile of social entrepreneurship, which is evident from the response we’ve had to The Good Search. The real difference now, though, is that consumers have been empowered to act. My hope is that social entrepreneurs will soon be noticing an increase in the number of new customers they have.”