22 February 2007

Act against Climate Change

Have you already exchanged your light bulbs with energy saving ones? This discussion with my dad today reminded me that we also have to "walk the talk"... and that everyone can do something against climate change, step by step. First the light bulbs, energy saving, waste reduction through recycling, one day a hybrid car?

We also should raise our voice to increase the pressure on our politicians to set the right framework. Jeffrey Sachs' Earth Institute has hosted a Global Roundtable which issued a consensus statement for global cooperation to meet the world's growing energy needs while also protecting the environment. Nearly 100 global companies and organizations have already signed on. Add your voice here! If you are in Sydney, additionally support the Earth Hour!

Speaking German? Read this interesting SZ-interview with Jeffrey Sachs (in German).
Still not sure what causes climate change? Watch this BBC coverage on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report:

19 February 2007

Economists disagree on how to solve poverty: "Easterly vs. Sachs"

Two of the highest-profile development economists Jeffrey Sachs and William Easterly continue on disagreeing on how to tackle best global poverty. It's going back for years and seems to continue in 2007. The story usually goes like this: "Planner" Sachs (with a more top down approach) proposes how development aid can work. "Searcher" Easterly (more grassroots approach) disagrees highlighting why aid hasn't worked in the past. Latest example is Easterly's "The White Man's Burden" article (Jan.'07) in response to Sachs ' "How Aid Can Work" (Dec.'06).

For sure it's an interesting discussion going on between the two and it might helpful for academics. But frankly I wonder if it wouldn't be more beneficial for the poor they try to help (and less confusing for non-experts) if they'd sit down over a beer and write down their common ground? Has anyone done a comparative analysis between the two?

So far I have no opinion who is right, although critizicing is easier than going ahead with action as Sachs has done with the UN Millennium Development Goals. My feeling is: Don't we need both, UN planned development cooperation as well as entrepreneurial development on the grassroots level? I believe we need more cooperation to really make "MakePovertyHistory".

14 February 2007

Germany proposes Microcredit fund for Africa

Now it's getting interesting: I feel that this story has the potential to bring together my interest areas Microfinance and Social Entrepreneurship with my German background plus my plan to go to Africa at the end of this year! Does anyone have contacts to the right people? :)

The Financial Times writes: "Germany is to press other Group of Eight industrial nations to create a micro-credit fund for African entrepreneurs as part of efforts to promote investment in the continent, according to Germany’s development minister. Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said the fund, which could be managed by the World Bank, would be a 'positive signal' to the poorest people in African countries, who 'often miss out on the effects of investment'."

Read the full Financial Times article.
Another interesting microcredit article: Value change next to money.

12 February 2007

Yunus on "Social Business Enterprise"

I have been following closely Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, "the father of microcredit". He combines business approaches with social goals... therefore I am superinterested in his new idea: it's called "social business enterprise". First step is a yogurt factory in Bangladesh, the Fortune magazine reports...

What if, by raising "social capital" and investing it in sustainable businesses without a profit motive, companies could reach into new markets, expanding their core businesses at the same time they improved lives? That's the world Yunus envisages. " It could be a very big idea," says a fellow Nobel laureate, the economist Joseph Stiglitz, who has been hearing Yunus talk about his new endeavor for years. The question, he says, is how to implement it. Read the Fortune magazine article.

08 February 2007

Business and the Global Poor: "The Bottom of the Pyramid"

With interest I have been following the discussion on "the Bottom of the Pyramid" (BOP) which means the 4 billion people poor who live on less than 2-5$ disposable income per day. There is an interesting overlap with Corporate Social Responsibility, Social Entrepreneurship and Microfinance because all these concepts somehow link "business" with "social".

Although the definitions vary the idea behind the BOP discussions is clear: "How the global poor can become producers as well as consumers?" and "how can poverty can be alleviated by business activity?". Ideally, this would be a win-win situation for business (new markets, new customers, growth) and the poor (affordable products, employment, income). Simple examples include shampoo that works best with cold water or soap in very small sizes affordable for the poor - both even improve health by reducing diseases.

Here a good article from the Harvard Business School.
And the BOP "bible": The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid

04 February 2007

Social Entrepreneurship

Since I heard Yunus' Nobel lecture proclaiming "social businesses" and an information session of Acumen Fund social entrepreneurship won back my attention.

What's a social entrepreneurship?
"The art of simultaneously pursuing both a financial and a social return on investment (the double bottom line)."
The Institute for Social Entrepreneur

Here a nice example: "In Africa, where children die of diarrhea from bad sanitation, Isaac Durojaiye runs a franchise system for public toilets. He supplies mobile toilets to slum areas, where unemployed young people charge a small fee for their use. The operators keep 60 percent of the income and pass the rest back to Mr. Durojaiye’s company, Dignified Mobile Toilets, which uses the money to buy new toilets." Read the full New York Times article.

I would like to learn more about the crossroads between Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Entrepreneurship because both want to have a positive social impact including poverty alleviation. Any thoughts?

02 February 2007

UN report ends doubt that Humans responsible for Climate Change

A brand new UN report found a 90 percent probability that man-made greenhouse gases were responsible for the increase in the Earth's surface temperature over the last half century. Something that most Europeans have believed for a long time but has been still doubted in the USA. Wake up time, Mr. B?!

The report is compiled by the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an independent body composed of the world's top climate scientists. It says that "extreme and violent weather will be the norm by 2100", scary... The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) adds: "The pace at which finite natural resources are being lost could mean that the engine of globalisation may stutter and eventually run out of fuel, triggering potential tensions between nations and aggravating, rather than alleviating, poverty".

The Picture shows the disappearing glacier of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (courtesy of Spiegel). The top photo shows the peak in February 1993. The bottom picture is from February 2000. People on the bottom of the mountain rely on the water of the glacier, i.e. poor people are going die due to droughts.

More Photos on Climate Change: Spiegel
A good summary of the report: UN News Centre
Take action! Here a good blog on Cimate Change Actions!