Investor, Sales and Marketing Pioneer, Author, Technology Champion, Philanthropist, Leadership Mentor
Bangladeshi Nobel Laureate, Prof. Mummad Yunus has a wonderful concept called “Social Business” to solve human problems and to do something positive for the society through business house.
What is Social Business?
“Social business is a cause-driven business. In a social business, the investors/owners can gradually recoup the money invested, but cannot take any dividend beyond that point. Purpose of the investment is purely to achieve one or more social objectives through the operation of the company; no personal gain is desired by the investors. The company must cover all costs and make profit, at the same time achieve the social objective, such as, healthcare for the poor, housing for the poor, financial services for the poor, nutrition for malnourished children, providing safe drinking water, introducing renewable energy, etc. in a business way.”
_Muhammad Yunus Centre
Currently, Prof. Yunus is running a joint venture company called Grameen Danone with Groupe Danone, the Spanish-French food giant. Together, they produce a yogurt fortified with micro-nutrients like iron, zinc, calcium and other vitamins and sell it a very cheap price so that poor people in Bangladesh can afford it. According to health experts, if a child takes two cups of this yogurt every week for one year; his/her malnutrition will vanish. It’s absolutely wonderful if you think and ponder that how Prof. Yunus has used business as a tool for solving a human problem in a society.
Society and Business
I have referred to Prof. Yunus and his social business in the context of society and business which in my opinion, is closely inter-related. Yet, there is a tremendous negativity in society as a whole for business houses. Let me explain my viewpoint little briefly. Society look upon business a capitalist tool, optimized for profit maximization. They think that sole purpose of a business is to make money and nothing else. While there is no denying the fact that “making money” is one of the most important objectives of any business house, and there are many business cases where a company has tried to make benefits at the expense of society. But there is other side of the coin as well. Business is a great blessing for society. Business creates job opportunities for the unemployed, steer economic growth for the nation, generate revenue for government and bring wealth to the society. In short, it gives a positive direction to human lives.
CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)
Society is one of the biggest stakeholders of every business house. No business can survive for long if it doesn’t have the support of public, let alone flourish. Even if someone starts a business with the sole purpose of making money, he still needs to deliver a product or service to the society before he/starts cashing money. Businesses exist because they serve a need for the society. Otherwise, they won’t. It’s a plain simple fact.
In recent times, the expectations from society have undergone a sea change. Today, societies expect business houses to be more operative in social causes and contribute meaningfully to it. No wonder, for many top leaders CSR has become a strong business imperative. They knew they just can’t keep themselves confined to balance sheet and financial reports – but need to stretch their corporate engagement in public space to gain public trust. As a part of their corporate responsibility, many business houses have already started several NGO programs to do something positive for the society. It can be like opening primary schools for poor children, running orphanage, organizing health camps and many other programs. All there are very welcome signs.
Champions Group CSR initiative
For Champions Group, CSR is a part of our company core value system. Society is one of our key stakeholders and we always try to do something worthwhile for the society, no matter, how humble or small our efforts are. We are running Surapaneni Educational Academy to impart free education to the weaker and underprivileged children of the society. Besides, we’ve distributed several hundred of computers to numerous educational institutions including Schools, Engineering Colleges and other educational institutions. Currently, we are highly excited about creating employment opportunities for the physically challenged people and are going about this initiative with full steam. During the one last year, we’ve generated about 50 plus employment for them. Hopefully, we can scale up more this year. Voluntary blood donation camp is another one of our CSR initiatives that our champions (employees) contribute smilingly every year. So far, my experience with CSR initiatives tells me that whatever you give to the society comeback to us a double benefits in other way like a boomerang.
The Way Ahead
Prof. Yunus‘s Social Business and CSR have many differences structurally – but there is a common thread between them. It is the society. No business can exists or operates in absence of a society. Business houses need to reflect and take a long term perspective of how they are going to fulfill their social obligations and serve society better through their business endeavor. Pro-active companies have already embedded CSR in their core philosophy and are creating new markets by aligning social causes with corporate strategies. I sincerely feel that in coming times – CSR will form the integral part of business and strategy and not just rendering some ad-hoc or part time social responsibility.