18 October 2007

Me to We: Young individuals making a difference

Young individuals that try the make a bit of a better place inspire a lot. Yes, we all admire the Dalai Lama, Muhammad Yunus and Nelson Mandela. Young change makers have the advantage that it is much easier to identify with them. Seeing the (com)passion of young people not accepting the old apologies why the world is unfair and why it can't be changed, is refreshing and giving hope. One of the outstanding examples is Jeremy Gilley with his Peace One Day campaign and DVD I blogged about here.

The latest example I came across are two young Canadian brother, the Kielburgers. CBC featured them:
"Craig and Marc Kielburger have made headlines around the world. Craig organized students from his grade 7 class to start an awareness campaign about child labour.
'Free the Children' was born. Now just a year before, Craig's older brother Marc spent a year in Thailand at an AIDS hospital.

Since then, 'Free the Children' has gone from being a home-run organization to one that works around the world. They've received countless awards.. Had appearances - yes plural - on Oprah. And have an on-going partnership with her Angel Network. Conversed with Mother Theresa and the Pope. Done speaking tours with the Dali Lama, Bill Clinton and Desmond Tutu."
They also founded a business4good called Me to We Style selling organic fair trade clothing and doanting 50% of its profits to their charity. They even wrote a book 'Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World.'

Check out their interview on CBC!

17 October 2007

Mobile phones: the single most transformative technology for development

Mobile phones are clearly business4good. I have read plenty of articles about specific solutions using mobile phones in the developing world - including the Kenyan mobile4good example. This this BusinessWeek article sums it up nicely:

"What would a Kenyan farmer want with a mobile phone?
Plenty, as it turns out. To the astonishment of the industry, people living on a few dollars a day have proven avid phone users, and in many parts of the world cellular airtime has become a de facto currency. The reason is simple: A mobile phone can dramatically improve living standards by saving wasted trips, providing information about crop prices, summoning medical help, and even serving as a conduit to banking services.

Mobile phones are changing developing markets faster than anyone imagined. Today there are some 3 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, and that will grow to 5 billion by 2015, when two-thirds of the people on earth will have phones, predicts Finnish handset maker Nokia"

ile phones are changing developing markets faster than anyone imagined. Today there are some 3 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, and that will grow to 5 billion by 2015, when two-thirds of the people on earth will have phones, predicts Finnish handset maker Nokia Corp."

Jeffrey Sachs even calls cell phones "...the single most transformative technology for development".

Read the full article in BusinessWeek.

13 October 2007

The World needs a Global Marshall Plan

During Germany's G8 presidency I picked up an interesting initiative: The Global Marshall Plan. Their brochure featured the who is who on making globalization more fair, incl. Stiglitz, Yunus, Al Gore etc.

Coming from Germany which was rebuilt with the help of the Marshall plan after WWII it's very interesting seeing this idea taken onto a global level. It's certainly bigger and more complex but aiming for the right thing - a fairer globalization! Do you think it's possible?

"The Global Marshall Plan aims at a "World in Balance". To achieve this we need a better design of globalization and the global economic processes - a worldwide Eco-Social Market Economy. This is a matter of an improved global structural framework, sustainable development, the eradication of poverty, environmental protection and equity, altogether resulting in a new global 'economic miracle'."

Move your cursor over the animation to learn more about the initiative:

12 October 2007

Bill Gates Calls for More Creative Capitalism to Reduce Inequality

Bill Gates is one of the best examples of business leaders changing their way to strive towards doing good. Earlier this year Bill Gates gave an interesting speech on tackling inequities at Harvard.

I like his down to business approach to reduce poverty:
"Imagine, just for the sake of discussion, that you had a few hours a week and a few dollars a month to donate to a cause—and you wanted to spend that time and money where it would have the greatest impact in saving and improving lives. Where would you spend it? For Melinda and for me, the challenge is the same: how can we do the most good for the greatest number with the resources we have?

The defining and ongoing innovations of this age—biotechnology, the computer, the Internet—give us a chance we’ve never had before to end extreme poverty and end death from preventable disease... You know more about the world’s inequities than the classes that came before. In your years here, I hope you’ve had a chance to think about how—in this age of accelerating technology—we can finally take on these inequities, and we can solve them.

We can make market forces work better for the poor if we can develop a more creative capitalism—if we can stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or at least make a living, serving people who are suffering from the worst inequities. If we can find approaches that meet the needs of the poor in ways that generate profits for business and votes for politicians, we will have found a sustainable way to reduce inequity in the world.

Don’t let complexity stop you. Be activists. Take on the big inequities. It will be one of the great experiences of your lives."

What a final call for action: “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”
Watch the video or read the transcript.

Thanks to Max Oliva from ie

05 October 2007

The Economist & CSR: From Foes to Friends

What a difference two years can make. CSR has made it into mainstream:

Economist '2005 :
The respected conservative weekly was pretty much on the side of Milton Friedman's "The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits". It dismissed CSR not only as a superficial PR exercise but even dismissed as counterproductive. "CSR cannot be a substitute for wise policies in these areas. In several little-noticed respects, it is already a hindrance to them...To improve capitalism, you first need to understand it. The thinking behind CSR does not meet that test."

Economist '2007:
It seems that the benefits that have been well documented (e.g. in Michael Porter's article) for some time, are becoming mainstream finally. In response to a CSR-critical book “Supercapitalism” the Economist writes:
"[D]one well, CSR can motivate employees and strengthen brands, while also providing benefits to society. Understanding and responding to the social context in which firms operate is increasingly a source of new products and services, observes Jane Nelson of the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum. Telling firms they need not act responsibly might cause them to under-invest in these opportunities, and to focus excessively on short-term profits."

Simon Zadek, the boss of AccountAbility summarizes the state of CSR in a nice way: “The ‘whether in principle' conversation about CSR is over,” he says. “What remains is ‘What, specifically, and how?'”. Answers to these important questions is what the UN Global Compact with its local networks in over 70 countries tries to foster. And this blog highlights some of outstanding business4good cases.

Thanks to the Triple Bottom Line Blog

01 October 2007

Business–NGO Partnerships Help the World’s Poorest

During the International Trade Forum leading businesses including Adidas, BP and Procter & Gamble committed to CSR:
“We believe that the leading global companies of 2020 will be those that provide goods and services and reach new customers in ways that address the world's major challenges — including poverty, climate change, resource depletion, globalization and demographic shifts.”
The full article on the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) website also features a few illustrative example of 'business4good' practices:
  • Unilever is integrating social innovation strategies in its business operations. In India, it teamed up with NGOs to create Shakti, a rural network that sells products adapted to rural customers in more than 100,000 villages, employing 31,000 women. In Indonesia, it teamed up with Oxfam to research and assess the impact of production and distribution processes on poor communities. (Sources: Unilever, Oxfam)
  • Procter & Gamble worked with research institutes and other organizations to create a low-cost ($0.01/litre) water purification product. PuR is mixed with water and filtered through a cloth to remove bacteria, viruses and parasites. One billion people lack access to safe drinking water. Relief agencies use PuR to provide clean drinking water during emergency relief operations. (Source: P&G Health Sciences Institute)
  • Cemex, the world's third largest construction materials firm, has been working with Ashoka fellows to help more than 30,000 low-income families to build affordable, decent houses for themselves. Participants enter a savings and credit programme, get assistance to plan construction work, and benefit from services such as material storage, delivery and price guarantees for two years. This helps the company reach new customers it could not serve before, while helping poor families to improve their living conditions. (Source: Ashoka)
The WBCSD article also talks about tthe rise of social entrepreneurship and poverty as a business challenge. A pretty good read and nice update summary on how business can do good.