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What happens when business has a higher purpose?

09.03.10 | Posted in Entrepreneurship

I had an interesting day yesterday, full of contrast.

I attended the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year Awards lunch at Café Sydney. Someone asked me afterwards “who was there?” and I told them it would be quicker to say who wasn’t there.  The room was abuzz with media personalities and talented businesswomen.

Sass & Bide at VeuveIt was a very sophisticated and beautiful celebration, coinciding with International Women’s Day.  Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton from Sass & Bide took out the title, triumphing over Kylie Kwong and Envirosax founder Belinda David-Tooze

The three finalists shared ambition, drive and a commitment to sustainability. The Sass & Bide girls source fabrics from fair trade suppliers; Kylie Kwong is the first foodie in Australia to turn her restaurant carbon neutral; and Envirosax’s Belinda is doing her bit with her eco-friendly reusable bags.

Muhammad Yunus

At the end of the day I went along to a free community event run by the Sydney Peace Foundation, World Vision and a few other groups to hear my all time hero and Nobel Peace Winner Muhammad Yunus speak.

Yunus is credited as being the founder of the micro-financing movement. His organisation, the Grameen Bank, executes his work. In short, it’s all about providing tiny loans to the poor – to people who couldn’t normally access credit – and turning them into self-sufficient entrepreneurs. He’ll give say $2 to a woman who will buy some cane and start a small basketweaving business.

Yunus has also pioneered the movement he calls ‘social business’. He encourages corporations to set up businesses that have no interest in drawing profits for themselves and shareholders, but exist to solve social issues.

An example of a social business venture is Grameen Danone. Yunus and Danone set this up to manufacture and sell (at a very low and accessible price) nutrient-packed yoghurt. They sell this product to the poor in Bangladesh and the result is that children become nourished, and their health is improved drastically.

He’s done the same with Grameen Adidas, providing quality footwear at cheap prices for the poor.

At Business Chicks we’ll always have a higher purpose with our work too. We’ve worked alongside Kids Helpline for the past four years and have raised almost $500,000 for them. While we’re a for-profit business, we’re a business with a heart and a soul, and I’ve always thought that it’s possible to turn a profit and make a difference at the same time.

I’d like to think various forms of social business can be possible with more Australian companies and ventures. What about you?

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4 Comments

  1. Clare Lancaster

    I think this is something that resonates with a lot of women in business (including me).

    The idea that you can create a business that helps you achieve your personal goals but is aligned with your passions and values to ultimately help others also.

    Like you said – it’s about having a business “with a heart and a soul”.

  2. Fiona Pascoe

    Poignant and SO relevant as usual Emma! As we live our lives wanting to leave the world a better place than we arrived so we run our careers too, if not our businesses. Love your work….Fi

  3. Zoe Lamont

    So great to hear this Emma, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I think social business is absolutely the way forward and am so excited about the impact, direction, community and energy there is around creating, developing and establishing social enterprise – in essence, paying yourself and team sanely and spend your life doing good!
    My business partner and I are just in the process of launching a new social business at the mo and can’t believe what’s happening, it’s like the universe is backing everything we do. For anyone that’s interested in social business, there are a heap of cool people and resources around. We’ve just been granted a bursary to the Aust School for Social Entrepreneurs (think there’s more available check out http://www.sse.org.au) which we stumbled upon having no idea things like this exist, also check out
    great global community of interesting people, ventures and social entrepreneurs – google “i-genius” My contact details are on http://www.10thousandgirl.com or fuelthinking.com if anyone keen to chat more about what we can all do to help promote the SB concept, and as you say Emma, inspire the idea to be integrated in all Australian companies in whatever way…. Love it, thanks again Emma for great uplifting visionary thought.
    Zoe

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