The current economic and financial crisis makes it very clear that the system that we have is not sustainable, and thus it is the right time for us to change the ways we do business and build them in a new way.
By simply capitalizing on core strengths and knowledge, companies and entrepreneurs can engage in an emerging business model that will enable them to create – and demonstrate – real, sustainable social impact in society. This business model is aptly called “social business” and brings together the efficient and innovative methods of business and the task of solving social problems such as poverty, healthcare, education or energy access.
Engaging in social business is beneficial to a company because it leverages on business competencies to address social issues, involves one-time investment with sustainable results, and produces other positive effects such as employee motivation and improved organizational culture.
The growth of the social business sector is advantageous to profit-making companies – once problems of homelessness and poor welfare are solved, people will come to the market and buy more of their products. The larger the social business sector grows, the stronger the business sector becomes, as society becomes stronger and problem-free.
To overcome poverty and the flaws of the economic crisis in our society, we need to envision our social life. We have to free our mind, imagine what has never happened before and write social fiction. We need to imagine things to make them happen. If you don’t imagine, it will never happen. I suggest making a list of “impossibles” and to start working on them. For example, 1 % of the total economy of a city, a province or a country should be invested in social business within the next five years. We have to show the success stories at the ground level and it will change the people’s mind about doing business.
One example can change people’s mind and therefore we are holding the annual Global Social Business Summit, similar to the World Economic Forum, to bring together decision-makers from businesses and politics and connect them to the social business community to learn more about social business and how it is being developed around the world.
Emmanuel Faber, Chief Operating Officer of the Danone Group, once said that social business is a radical innovation and it brings in a completely new horizon of business opportunities; it is not just a simple change in the conventional business.
Poverty has become a part of our economic system as well as its consequence. It is created by the system that we have built, the institutions that we have designed, the concepts we have formulated. Poverty is an artificial, external imposition on a human being; it is not innate in a human being. And since it is external, it can be removed. It is just a question of doing it.
Video: Michael Porter sees huge opportunities for corporations to use capitalism as a driver to tackle social problems via the creation of shared value.
Author: Professor Muhammad Yunus is a Board Member of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. He is the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (2006), and the US Presidential Medal of Freedom (2009) and US Congressional Gold Medal (2013).
Image: People are seen walking in Tokyo’s business district REUTERS/Toru Hanai.