The idea of using entrepreneurial strategies to solve social and environmental problems is gaining converts. More than 400 companies have been certified as B—for beneficial—by Philadelphia-based B Lab, an organization formed in 2006 to support social entrepreneurship. “It’s a field growing very fast and in many different directions,” says David Bornstein, author of How to Change the World. Once the province of innovative nonprofits like Ashoka, a 31-year-old international group that funds social entrepreneurs, the movement has migrated solidly into the for-profit sector, spawning do-gooding brands like Toms Shoes, which gives away one pair for every pair sold, while also spurring more traditional businesses like SmartWool (#42) and Timberland to expand their community-service arms.
ESSENTIAL SKILLS: A creative mind for business and a community-oriented outlook. An MBA from a program with a strong social-commerce component—Columbia, Stanford, and the University of Michigan have good ones—can help.
BREAKING IN: Learn more through the industry forum SocialEdge.org, from B Corp (bcorporation.net), and from books like Bornstein’s and The Social Entrepreneur’s Handbook, by Rupert Scofield