Published Date: September 4, 2016
Published by: www.nationmultimedia.com Thailand
The Nation September 4, 2016 1:00 am
Nation Multimedia Group editorial board adviser Suthichai Yoon talks with 2006 Nobel laureate and microcredit pioneer Muhammad Yunus, the architect of a movement sweeping through Fortune 500 companies, and a ‘Three Zeros’ action plan to preserve the world for future generations
Recognised globally for pioneering the concepts of microcredit and microfinance, Bangladesh national Muhammad Yunus proved that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development. Founder of Bangladesh's Grameen (Village) Bank, which has been providing access to credit for the poor for more than 30 years, he has today turned his attention to what he calls "social business". This aims to overcome poverty through non-loss, non-dividend companies dedicated entirely to achieving a social goal. Under this model investors get their investment money back over time, but never receive dividends beyond the initial amount. "Social business," he told Forbes magazine last year, is a complement to traditional profit-maximising business.
You came from Rio, what were you doing at the Olympics?
I was a torchbearer and I was also invited to address the International Olympic Committee meeting on why [sport] should have social dimensions. No matter whether it's a global, regional, national or local event, if a national Olympic committee gets the idea to do something special with the social dimensions, a huge number [of people] will get involved.
What are the social aspects of sport?
Several things. For example, there are four cities in the running to host the Olympics in 2024, Paris, Budapest, Rome and Los Angeles, selected on the basis of an eligibility checklist. If you put one more condition in that list - the number of social businesses you have in your city - then everyone becomes conscious of it. So candidates have to start social business, otherwise they might not qualify. You don't need to spend any money, but people become aware about social businesses.
A selected host like Rio must have a legacy programme, [detailing] what you will leave behind [after the Olympics]. The poor, slum children who don't have education, healthcare - these are all legacy [issues]. You have to build business fund to this city, before and after. It's not just one shot and then forget.
Bring in educational programmes for students to learn about it. Young people love this idea. They want to get involved [because they look up to] national heroes - the gold-medal winners.
What young people do when they get into a university is they want to mobilise. [In sporting heroes] you have the mobilising force, you have the power to convince.
Private companies hire these celebrities to sell their products. We are already using [this power, but] for commercial purposes.
But is social business sustainable?
Yes, endlessly so. That's why you have to transform one into the other. You don't have to spend any extra. When I presented this [idea] in Rio, everybody loved it. They kept asking question after question. And after this, I was invited by the other candidate city, Paris. They want to pick up the [social businesses] idea quickly.
So, when any country seeks to host the Olympics in the future it will have to meet this standard?
Absolutely. Without meeting this standard, they cannot compete. That means you have to be better than the others. This is important as sports are about competitions. So you compete to do good for the young people.