Are businesses and social interest initiatives mutually exclusive? I guess for a lot of people the answer to this question would be “YES!” because they perceive that what is profitable for a company does not create any social impact besides employment generation. I am surprised how frequently I get comments like “business administrators only think about money.” You know what? They should! They should because no company or organization can be sustainable without economic resources. So… what’s my point? That it is possible for business administrators to think about money AND about social impact. That’s the idea behind a model that has recently started to revolutionize the social and economic world: inclusive businesses.
As AVINA Foundation defines it, inclusive businesses are “economically profitable, environmentally and socially responsible initiatives that use market mechanisms to improve the quality of life of people with low incomes.” I just love that concept because it is all about making “everybody happy,” like those “win-win” negotiations that we hear about so frequently at school, but that we are not so sure actually exist. Have you heard about microcredit banks or businesses focused on “the base of the pyramid”? Well, most of them are based on inclusive businesses’ models.
Recently I was invited to the launch event of the Spanish version of a blog called Nextbillion.net. Its objective is to create a movement around inclusive businesses and development, gathering leaders in the business, education and entrepreneurship world. That event was a great opportunity to share experiences with people of all ages that wanted to get to know about the initiative and how they could contribute. It was also refreshing to see that almost half the 50+ group was made of people under the age of 30! I feel that inclusive businesses do the trick for a lot of youth who are thinking of creative and innovative ways to work towards a higher quality of life for people. For those of you who are Spanish speakers, here’s the blog post about the launch that took place in Bogotá, Colombia.
I also remember the opportunity I had to share ideas about how to achieve real social change with the other seven finalists of the World Bank’s International Essay Competition 2008. They came from countries as diverse as India, China, Brazil, Nepal, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Indonesia, and a lot of the options we considered integrated both economic and social profitability! I was amazed how this inclusive business approach offers so many possibilities for countries as different as ours.
What do you think about this idea of bridging businesses and social initiatives? Are you comfortable with this type of models? Or do you prefer the traditional social responsibility approach?