A Business With a Heart
18 Oct, 2012
Some of us Bronfmanites may have considered: Is reaching the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals by 2015 a realistic target? Could the business sector have an influence on the accomplishment of these goals? Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Muhammad Yunus, has started a movement he feels can help move things along. He calls it, social business.
With a goal to take poverty off the streets and put it into museums, social business is a selfless practice that aims to relieve a community of a specific social problem. This can range from making small loans to the poor, to giving children necessary daily nutrients, from selling chemically treated mosquito nets to providing people with shoes – all at a price that is affordable to the target market.
A social business is an enterprise, just like any other that you might encounter recruiting McGillians at Career Fair. What sets it apart? It’s a business with a heart. Essentially, as described by Yunus, himself, the enterprise follows seven basic principles:
1. Its objective is to overcome poverty, or one or more problems (such as education, health, technology access, and environment) that threaten people and society.
2. The company attains financial and economic sustainability.
3. Investors get back only their investment amount. No dividend is given beyond the return of the original investment.
4. When the investment amount is paid back, profit stays within the company for expansions and improvement.
5. The company is environmentally conscious.
6. The workforce gets market wage with better-than-standard working conditions.
7. It is conducted with joy!!
All in all, like any other company, a social business goes through its growing pains. Its rewards however, instead of being enjoyed only by a select few managers, are felt in the community at large. In Bangladesh, it has been the main contributor to the reduction of extreme poverty by an annual rate of 2%, in India, it’s bringing clean drinking water to remote areas; in New York City, it’s getting beggars off the streets, and at Desautels, it’s shaping business students into global leaders of social change.