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The Double Bottom Line
Continuing my business trip through Canada, an article by Richard Blackwell titled [The Double Bottom Line] yesterday's Globe and Mail newspaper caught my attention.Here is an excerpt, citing Tim Brodhead, president of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation in Montreal:
The bottom line for any business is making a profit, right?
But how about considering a different, or additional bottom line: helping make the world a better place to live in.
That's the radical proposition underlying the concept of "social entrepreneurship," the harnessing of business skills for the benefit of the disadvantaged.
Young investors, in particular, now want their investments to produce both financial and social returns, he noted.
Until recently, "we could either make a donation [to a charity] and get zero financial return, or we could invest and get zero social return." People now want more of both, but rules governing charities and business make that tough to accomplish.
One stumbling block is the imperative - entrenched in corporate law - that managers and directors of for-profit companies have a fiduciary duty to maximize profits. That structure is a brick wall that limits the expansion of social entrepreneurship, Mr. Brodhead said.
Some companies have embraced the new paradigm of a double bottom line, even if they are uncomfortable with the "social entrepreneur" label.
This fiduciary duty to maximize profits is discussed in the 2003 documentary[Corporation]. However, some organizations are now trying to aligntheir goals, finding ways to benefit their investers, as well as society overall. For example, organization [ONE.org] helped launch [Product (RED)]:
If you buy a (RED) product from GAP, Motorola, Armani, Converse or Apple, they will give up to 50% of their profit to buy AIDS drugs for mothers and children in Africa. (RED) is the consumer battalion gathering in the shopping malls. You buy the jeans, phones, iPods, shoes, sunglasses, and someone - somebody’s mother, father, daughter or son - will live instead of dying in the poorest part of the world. It’s a different kind of fashion statement.
The company, which has operated in Africa for nearly six decades, expects to increase its investment by more than $US120 million (more than R820 million) over the next two years. In the coming year, IBM expects to hire up to 100 students from Sub-Saharan universities to meet the growing demand in services, global delivery and software development.
"The Sub-Saharan African market is poised for double-digit growth flowing from the development and expansion of telecommunications networks, power grids and transport infrastructure," said Mark Harris, Managing Director, IBM South and Central Africa. "Private and public sector investment in the region is transforming the ability of the market to participate in the global economy."
A recent IBM Global Innovation Outlook (GIO) [report on Africa] indicates that the economies ofdozens of African nations are growing at healthy rates, the best in the past 30 years, with 5.5 to 5.8 percent averageacross the continent. This supports last month's news that [Top IBM thinkers to mentor African students]:
Hundreds of IBM scientists and researchers will mentor college students in Africa. Called Makocha Minds (after the Swahili word for "teacher"), the program will reach hundreds of computer science, engineering and mathematics students.
Makocha Minds is an off-shoot of IBM’s Global Innovation Outlook, an annual symposium of top government, business and academic leaders that uncovers new opportunities for business and societal innovation. "African students need to be trained in entrepreneurship so that they get out there and not just make jobs for themselves but create opportunities to employ others as well,” said Athman Fadhili, a graduate student at the University of Nairobi (Kenya).
Most of the mentoring will be via email and online collaboration.
Mentoring via email and online collaboration is very reasonable. I have mentored both high school and collegestudents through a partnership between IBM Tucson and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers[SHPE]. While thekids were all located in Tucson, I rarely am, traveling nearly every week, but I madetime for the kids via email and online collaboration wherever I happened to be.
To make this work, we need to get email and online collaboration in the hands who need them.I got my email thanking me for being a "first day donor" to the One Laptop Per Child "Give 1 Get 1" (G1G1) project,and have added this "badge" to the right panel of my blog. If you click on the badge, you will be takento a series of YouTube videos that further describe the project.
According to the email my donated XO laptop will soon be delivered into the hands of a child in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Haiti, Mongolia or Rwanda.
How do these work? Instead of buying your uncle yet another $25 necktie, consider buying a $25 Kiva certificate.The $25 dollar "micro loan" goes to someone in the third world to improve their situation, start a business, geta job, and so on, and you give your uncle a Kiva certificate so that he can track the progress. I think that isvery clever and innovative.