Type keywords like Social Business, Grameen Bank etc.

Social business may deepen impact of CSR spending: analysts

Social business may deepen impact of CSR spending: analysts

Global Social Business Summit comes to a close in Berlin

Thomas Gass, assistant secretary-general for policy coordination and inter-agency affairs of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, speaks at a discussion at the Global Social Business Summit in Berlin on Friday. Photo: Yunus Centre

Md Fazlur Rahman

Global companies can bump up the impact of the amount they spend every year for philanthropic purposes by tying up with social businesses, analysts said on Friday.

Ulrich Villis, European leader for social impact practice of Boston Consulting Group, said companies are spending millions of dollars for social causes every year, and they can get more bang from their buck by aligning with social business, which brings more social good.

“We can do great things together if we work together,” Villis said at a discussion -- Social business ecosystems: fostering partnerships to create social impact -- on the final day of the seventh Global Social Business Summit in Berlin.

The companies, however, should be careful when tying up a social business partner, as good partnerships require engagement from all parties.

The collaborations, sometimes, can be a painful process but ultimately fruitful, he said, adding that measuring the social impact of any project is important as it can ensure lasting effect.

Villis said coming generations are increasingly looking for greater purpose from their jobs and the companies can meet that wish by way of social business. Born out of Nobel Peace laureate Muhammad Yunus's experience from running the Nobel Prize-winning Grameen Bank, a social business is a non-dividend company to solve a social problem.

Like a non-government organisation, it has a social mission and like a firm it generates its own revenues to cover costs. Investors may recoup their investment or plough it back to the venture.

Saskia Bruysten, co-founder and chief executive officer of Yunus Social Business Germany, said all parties in a partnership have to believe in what they are doing.

“Willingness is a key factor here. It is not easy and exciting all the time.”

She said by helping set up a huge number of successful companies Grameen has shown how the ecosystem can work. As a result, Bangladesh has become the Silicon Valley of social business. Building such ecosystems in other countries is important for successful social business in those countries, Bruysten added.

Anita Nowak, a professor at Canada's McGill University, who moderated the session, asked the 800-strong participants whether the ecosystem needed for successful social businesses exists in their countries and they responded with a rousing no by holding up small red cards.

Ashraful Hassan, managing director of Grameen Telecom, said partnership is the key to the success of any social business.

Companies with strong financial base can tie up with individuals or companies with viable ideas but shortage of funds; the same is also true with technically sound companies. He said the mid-level management has to be inculcated with the same enthusiasm that the top management feels when they establish a social business.

Jean-Luc Perron, MD of Grameen Credit Agricole Microfinance Foundation, which has set up more than 30 social businesses in partnership with multinational companies, non-government organisations and local companies in various countries, said more needs to be done to improve the ecosystem to help grow social businesses.

“Being a partner in collaboration does not mean you will have to accept everything -- you must fight for your ideas.”

Jean Bernou, CEO of food company McCain Continental's Europe & Middle East and Africa region, said if the individual is put at the heart of the process instead of money then positive transformations will take place.  Values are also important: without the right values social businesses cannot be successful, he said.

The world is changing very fast and the change has to be in the right direction.

“If you are in the social business you will have to co-create,” said Bernou, while calling for social business initiatives to help the hundreds of Middle Eastern refugees arriving in Europe to integrate into their new societies.

In another panel discussion, Thomas Gass, assistant secretary-general for policy coordination and inter-agency affairs of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), said social businesses will have a role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

On the last day of the event themed “creating a world without poverty and unemployment”, Yunus Social Business Global Initiatives signed an agreement with Nobuyuki Miyazawa, CEO of Tomoni Corporation, to set up Yunus Social Business in Japan.

The summit was organised by the Grameen Creative Lab in Germany and the Yunus Centre in Bangladesh in partnership with German tourism agency visitBerlin, the YY Foundation of Germany and Yunus Social Business, on the grounds of Berlin Templehof Airport.

The eighth edition of the summit, which is scheduled for next year, will take place in Beijing.


Source: www.thedailystar.net/business/