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A conversation with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus (part 2)

There are some people in this world that stand out because they have made a difference. Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr Muhammad Yunus is one of these people. His idealisms on this book, ‘Creating A World Without Poverty’ is his story, but it is also so much more. Five years after reading his best-selling book, I was privilege enough to converse with Dr Yunus for the entire day, from New York en route to Dubai. He explained his ideas and concepts and by the time you’ve finished reading this article, you’ll know much more about social business, and hopefully be inspired to make a difference yourself.

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I have combined my personal conversation with Dr Yunus and clarifying the book that I’ve read back in 2008. Therefore this article is somehow a validation of the book’s authenticity after five years it was published.

I thought this might be worth sharing to all the social entrepreneurs and people who are longing to change the world’s concept of capitalism and the system that governs the businesses around the world.

This is a summary of a traditional capitalists’ “profit maximization” versus social entrepreneur’s idealisms.

Dr Yunus is a highly motivated individual, keen to make the world a better place. He founded the Grameen Bank. A social business, set up to offer micro loans to people in poverty stricken areas without the need for collateral. The business has been a huge success, and the repayment rate is an impressive 98.6%. Since 1986, more than 7 million micro loans have been granted, lending a sum in excess of six billion dollars.

While these figures are impressive, it is not until you see the impact on lives that you realise what a great business it really is. With help from the Grameem Bank, more than 650,000 houses have been built, with loans that would be impossible to get from a standard bank. That’s 650,000 families with a better life. Loans have also been granted to enable people to start their own businesses. Giving people the means to work their way out of poverty by providing a product or service is a sustainable approach that can be passed down from generation to generation. Not only giving them a livelihood, but increasing their self-respect too.

Throughout the book, you will follow an interesting case study. A collaboration between Grameen and the large French food company Danone. This collaboration was set up to provide highly nutritious yoghurt (a product that Danone is famous for worldwide) to malnourished children in Bangladesh.

Dr Yunus has also had a hand in helping to build eye care hospitals. This was the result of a collaboration with several business leaders with a social conscience, and has helped save the sight of thousands of people. An impressive achievement by itself, but Dr Yunus never stops at just one successful project!

A man highly regarded by people in high places, Former President Jimmy Carter had this to say about Dr Yunus: “By giving poor people the power to help themselves, Dr. Yunus has offered them something far more valuable than a plate of food security in its most fundamental form.”

The Los Angeles Times reports… “Muhammad Yunus is a practical visionary who has improved the lives of millions of people in his native Bangladesh and elsewhere in the world. “

And the Washington Post made this comment: “[Yunus’s] ideas have already had a great impact on the Third World, and…hearing his appeal for a poverty-free world from the source itself can be as stirring as that all-American myth of bootstrap success.”

The book focuses on explaining exactly what a social business is and how to make a social business a success. He explains his concept of the ideal social business as one that is owned, wholly or in part, by the very people it is there to help. Products are sold at self-sustaining prices, no dividends are paid out to shareholders, and instead profits go into growing the business, creating new product lines, and so helping more people.

Dr Yunus explains why other forms of aid for the poor are not as effective. Giving people a stake in a social business gives them the opportunity to help themselves, the drive to make the business a success, and the motivation that being part of a business can bring to anyone. This is not just a charitable hand-out from the wealthy to the poor, it is a business that can benefit everyone. A business with morals that will improve lives where it is needed most.

Conscious business isn’t just another idealism, it is a codified movement that will guide humanity to strive for another century. Prof. Yunus thoughts are very inspiring, thought provoking, but also realistic. Dr Yunus highlights the problems facing social businesses and makes some worthy suggestions regarding how businesses and governments can help to move forward to a more socially responsible world view. He outlines some ideas for enabling social business to become more mainstream. Laws that must be made to ensure the legal requirements of a social business are clearly outlined, specific tax laws must be defined and there needs to be a set of regulations for social businesses to adhere to, guidelines and a certification system would also go a long way to ensuring social businesses are achieving what they have set out to do.

Especially interesting is his idea of a social stock market, dealing solely in social businesses. Buying shares is big business, and many people these days want to put their money into companies that are socially responsible, and have good green credentials. This can take a lot of research, ensuring that the company you are investing in treats their workers ethically, and are not acting underhand. It can make you feel terribly guilty if you invest your money in a business only to find out later that the owners are corrupt or the company is destroying huge areas of rainforest to create their products. With a social stock market, investors could rest assured that every business is ethical and sound.

What strikes me most about this book, is the realism. Dr Yunus is very down to earth. This is not simply a day dream of a man wishing to create a utopian society. This is his life and he has proved that his ideas work. Although he has achieved great things, he is humble enough to appreciate that it is a mere drop in the water, and his ideas can go much further. Hopefully this book will inspire others to follow in his footsteps and adopt a social business approach to their future enterprises.

Both inspirational, and offering practical advice, this is an interesting and entertaining read, but it is also instructional and should be useful to anyone who wants to do more to help people. Many of us give to charity, both as individuals and as a business, but most of us realise that this is the easy option, it’s a way to relieve our conscience, without really doing anything. Creating a social business, or adapting your current business to fit the social business framework is hugely rewarding. You’ll find vital information contained within the pages of this book that will help you to achieve your goals. Money will always be a big motivator, but doing good, doing the right thing, and making a difference, brings an even greater reward.

Anyone with a business can use that business to help make changes in the world. If you’re disheartened with the cut-throat corporate world, you can take a side step and become a social business. You don’t need to sacrifice your profits or entirely change your business model, with some thought and planning, any business can be transformed into a successful social business. It’s an amazing move to make, it will revitalise your enthusiasm for your business that may have waned over the years, and of course, knowing you are doing some good in the world, making the world a better place, and helping the people that need it most, is incredibly rewarding.

Sometimes we assess our lives and think about what we have achieved. We wonder just how we will be remembered when we are gone. As business owners, it can be a worry that we will only be remembered for being selfish. We may be very successful, but no matter how generous you are, how well you treat your staff, you may only be remembered for being a good business person, making a good profit for your own personal gain. As the owner of a social business, you will be seen as so much more. Someone who cares, someone who wants to make a difference. You’ll be leaving a legacy that could go on to grow and thrive, and help people long after you are gone. That really is something you and your descendants can be truly proud of.

After reading ‘Creating a World without Poverty’, you’ll no doubt be inspired. Whether you simply take on a few ideas, or you wholeheartedly follow Dr Yunus and his social mission is up to you, but any positive changes you make to your business as a result of reading this book will definitely make your purchase well worthwhile.

Talking to Dr Yunus, he dreamed of a new business system, to transform capitalism to make the world a better place could become a reality if more people join him. It’s a well thought out idea, and he is living proof that you can be highly successful running a social business. His plans for the future may be ambitious, but they are not impossible and could easily grow exponentially now the ball is rolling.

Think about it, there’s nothing more motivating than helping others and seeing your impact on the lives of people less fortunate than yourself. Yes making money for yourself is a good motivator, and we’re not disputing that. We all love our holidays and to be able to treat our kids at Christmas, Diwali or Eid, but there’s something unique and special about helping others, especially in the most poverty stricken parts of the world. Imagine giving someone the opportunity to work so their kids can have an education. That is a gift that will help that family for many generations to come. You’re having an impact on history. Imagine helping to build hospitals; did you ever think you’d be responsible for saving lives? That could become a reality! Once you get involved in these projects, believe me, it’s addictive! Seeing the faces of children when you’ve helped their school to gain vital supplies is infectious.

People with social businesses just love to talk about it, not because they are boasting, but because they want to spread the word, to encourage others to join in their mission, to collaboratively make the world a better place for everyone. It is this zeal and enthusiasm that will spread; the social business will become a massive sector of the marketplace. Then he asked, “Wouldn’t you love to part of that now?”

After a long conversation with Dr Yunus, reading his books and meeting a lot of social workers/entrepreneurs, I realized that the face of capitalism must change. There is so much negativity in the world, especially when it comes to the traditional business world. We need an injection of positivity and we need change, NOW!

Dr Yunus shows us that positive change is possible, it’s entirely viable, and is not simply the pipe dream of the well-meaning but delusional. Moreover, it’s possible for anyone, with any business, to transform their business and become more socially responsible. His passion and dedication is an inspiration to us all.

– End of Part 2 –

To read the first article, click the title: What i learned from Muhammad Yunus

Lincoln Martin Strategic Marketing Agency was conceived by the idealisms of Dr Yunus, fortified at Boston and implemented around the world. To learn how conscious capitalism and sustainable strategic marketing can help your organization, contact: Ems @ lincolnmartin.com

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