Taz advent calendar (16): here’s to a beer – and a tree!

Berlin is also a front-runner for once: Social enterprises try to solve a problem in the long term – usually with innovative methods and products.

That’s the kind of image you want to see more often! Photo: picture alliance/Matthaus Holleschovsky/Bergwaldprojekt/dpa

According to the Christian calendar, the Good News is only proclaimed on December 24. But because there is so rarely reason to rejoice in this earthly vale of tears, we present good news every day until Christmas.

The Christmas season is supposed to be a time of contemplation, a quiet end to the year that has almost passed. But in the madness of consumption, in the frenzy of giving and being given presents, and, not to be forgotten, in organizing an Advent coffee party, December is for many again and again the exact opposite – pure stress. The economy is no different. Companies are trying to get hold of one of the limited gift places under the Christmas tree with numerous supposed mega-offers. In doing so, they always have their sights firmly set on maximizing profits.

However, social entrepreneurship, as it is called in start-up jargon, opposes this and puts the brakes on the race for profit. Unlike conventional companies, social enterprises take on a social problem and try to solve it in the long term – usually with innovative methods and products. Berlin has now taken on a pioneering role in this field in Germany and, according to a 2016 study by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, is even one of the five hotspots alongside London, Nairobi, Hong Kong and Santiago de Chile.

Founded in 2009 by Christian Kroll, "Ecosia" is one of many young social enterprises in the capital that forgoes profit to actively address a social problem. The concept of the Internet search engine is simple. For example, at least 80 percent of the profit generated by advertising revenue from web searches, similar to Google, is donated to non-profit conservation organizations. The main goal here is the protection and reforestation of threatened forest areas. Since 2014, for example, the company has supported the "Greening the desert" project in Burkina Faso, which replanted dried-up forest areas. In October 2018, "Ecosia" announced that it had cracked the mark of 40 million trees planted in total.

Drinking for a good cause

However, many "social startups" tend to limit themselves to a regional to local scope. For example, there is the Kreuzberg beer brand "Quartiersmeister," which was founded in 2010 by Peter Eckert and David Griedelbach. Right from the start, it was clear that ten cents per liter sold would be donated. But that’s not all: all revenues left over after personnel, administration, et cetera, are distributed to social projects. In this way, the company has given away over 120,000 euros. Among others, the Prinzessengarten in Kreuzberg or self-help stores in the area have benefited.

By the way, in the above-mentioned study by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Germany only ranks 12th in the list of social enterprise-friendly nations; as mentioned, only Berlin can achieve top positions. Finally, a ranking list that Berliners like to be at the top of. Otherwise, we are only top when it comes to unsuccessful airports or unpopular state governments.