Unpacking 'Give back box': a social enterprise at the intersection of leadership, innovation, and sustainability
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Once the domain of government agencies and non-profit organizations, a social enterprise integrates social benefits such as employment and sustainability into a for-profit firm’s mission. The social enterprise (SE) bottom line includes both economic and social value, reflecting an intersection of the Jesuit leadership tradition with commercial business enterprise. This case study describes the start-up of Give Back Box (GBB), a Chicago-based social enterprise that supports recycling and repurposing. GBB’s business model involves providing a convenient, no-cost opportunity to follow up an online purchase by recycling the shipping box to forward unneeded items to charities. GBB was founded in 2012 by two entrepreneurs with expertise in global business as well as online retailing. Thus, this case also addresses the entrepreneurial dimension of SE by illustrating the close link between social enterprise and social entrepreneurship. Following its initial pilot phase, GBB has grown steadily, receiving impressive media coverage that has included articles in Forbes, Fast Company, and a feature on NBC’s ‘Today’ show. In 2013 another partner joined GBB: a Colombian engineer with an MBA from a U.S. Jesuit business school who has sought to apply business principles and Jesuit values in his work as a GBB partner. This case study describes the start-up’s inception, its mission and business plan, and its achievements to date, together with recommendations for other SE start-ups.