The Bankwatch

Tracking the consumer evolution of financial services

A social business definition from Clearlyso

If there is a word that bothers me, it is the word ‘social’.  It is often quickly followed by the word community.  Over the last 5 years you are no-one unless you have a social aspect and a community.  Some have gone to great lengths in an effort to properly define social in a meaningful way.  However to this day, it remains hard to frame the context of social in a business way, and especially for existing businesses such as banks and financial institutions.  I certainly is not by having a PR managed twitter account. 

I raise all this again after meeting today with the nice people from clearlyso located at CSI in Toronto. is the Canadian arm of a UK group and launch is coming soon!  Our conversation was related to communitylend, but that’s not for here.  Clearlyso has definition of social business that makes sense to me.  In fact I raised it here and here in the context of regulation, and here in the context of meaningful social capital.

Yet this all becomes hazy when I look at real businesses and attempt to evaluate them based on being ‘social’. 

So it was refreshing to see someone lay a line in the sand and outline a simple definition. 

A social business definition |

A social business is one which integrates two objectives:

  • A commercial objective: To achieve and increase profits and realise growth (like any traditional business) and…
  • A social (and ethical and environmental) objective: As set out in our list of social benefits, found in the search box on the company directory.

A social business can be large or small, a start-up or an established player, it can take any legal form (CICs, co-ops, Ltd companies, and so on) and can operate in most industrial sectors (it’s difficult to imagine a social arms manufacturer/trader)

In summary a socially oriented company is one that is doing good, and not doing evil. 

  • Customers are right until proven wrong
  • making profits from inherently devious and fake products such as derivatives is evil
  • taking TARP money on false pretenses is evil and it turns out illegal
  • forcing call time that drives revenue and does not allow the customer choice is evil, driving ‘thin value’

Why is it that on the banking side, I have more evil than good?  That’s not good. 

The definition of social has finally transcended the fact of hosting a forum, or engaging in twitter/ FaceBook/ blog comments.  No.  Rather it is a fundamental requirement in the business objective of the company that sees business profits to be made while people perceive real value, both financially, ethically and morally.

Written by Colin Henderson

February 5, 2010 at 00:02

3 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Years ago I read a book called Beyond The Hype (I think that was the title) written by some Harvard professors (I think).

    One of the points the authors made was that there’s great power in a label that’s NOT clearly defined. (I think “reengineering” was the example they used).

    The power in a loosely defined term is that it enables many people to define it how they want to, and make it their own.

    This is what’s happening with “social”: It’s not good enough anymore to have a CRM strategy, you have to have a Social CRM strategy. You have to adopt social media and social networking. And so on.

    What anyone person means when they use the term social is likely to be different than the next 9 people use it.

    Trying to legislate or gain consensus on a definition is a losing battle.

    Ron Shevlin

    February 5, 2010 at 11:02

  2. @Ron … thats a terrific point you note there. Three years ago it was the “social economy” which I always had issues with.

    That said there is something related to ethics, morals, and lack of trust in corporations. That suggests there is a better way. Whether something social is the answer remains toe be seen. Certainly it is an open question on the impact of group surveillance of corporate activities and actions. The good in it can be overwhelmed by the instinct of lemmings that we see in Twitter RT’s, which are higher than original input by orders of magnitude.

    This really is an ‘over a beer’ conversation!

    Colin Henderson

    February 6, 2010 at 18:03

  3. Nice to see that our definition makes sense to you…

    All the best,

    Thomas, ClearlySo UK


    February 16, 2010 at 05:11

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: