Why Now? Is the Social Business Movement Reaching A Tipping Point?

Why Now? Is the Social Business Movement Reaching A Tipping Point?

September 26, 2019

My Most Important Take-Aways From The #LeadTheBeat B Corp Summit in Amsterdam.

Amidst the hype from Friday’s Climate Strikes and the ongoing UN Climate Week, it was fantastic to have the opportunity to speak at the #LeadTheBeat B Corporation Summit this week. Having been involved in the social business movement for over ten years, the summit felt like a real moment of change.


My three greatest takeaways were:

1) EVEN THE MOST TRADITIONAL MEDIA OUTLETS ARE TAKING NOTE.

It’s been clear over the last few months that social change moment is building across many different spheres. The call for a more social business has come from all sides, not just from grassroots movements but also business and industry leaders such as recently the Business Roundtable speaking up and calling for change. There has been a noticeable shift across even the most traditional outlets such as The Financial Times creating an entirely new platform calling for a “Capitalism Reset”, as well as Fortune, The Economist and Forbes all looking starting to look at business with a purpose-first viewpoint.

2) WE NEED EXPONENTIAL PROGRESS RATHER THAN INCREMENTAL CHANGES.

We know that the top 100 of the world’s most polluting companies cause 70% of emissions. Business is a sector of society that needs to make huge changes. So as a business community, we need to declare a climate and inequality emergency and be part of the solution to reach the Sustainable Development Goals. We have to become activists ourselves if we want to see this happen. Even if we don’t feel comfortable in these kinds of roles. The target for the SDGs is just 11 years away. If we want to focus on just one goal, for instance to eliminate poverty, we need to start acting radically to see business creating solutions that solve the problem on a large scale.

3) IT’S NOT JUST A BRANDING EXERCISE BUT A CORE MISSION CHANGE.

I truly believe that the B Corp movement is one capable of aligning businesses to the Sustainable Development Goals. Certifications are a tool that can drive systemic change, crucially by preventing green and social washing. As the social and environmental movement is becoming more popular and even “commercially viable” businesses all want to appear more social, but need to put the work in to prevent so called green washing . It was great to see Danone at the summit, announcing that now 20 of its 110 subsidiaries are certified as B Corps, generating up to 30% of their total profits. They started their journey 10+ years ago with a social business we co-created with them. Also represented at the summit were Patagonia, who have changed their mission statement to: “We're in business to save our home planet,” the outdoor gear and apparel retailer’s new statement is a more succinct update from its previous, “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” Living the values rather than just representing them is absolutely key.

B Corporations are over 2600 responsible businesses that are certified to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental impact, accountability and transparency. Together B Corps seek to transform the economy to a more inclusive and circular B Economy - an economy that benefits all not just few.

At Yunus Social Business we feel a real affinity with B Corporation movement as we aim to grow social businesses that act primarily to benefit society. Social Business could be seen as the radical sister of the B Corp movement, as the social goal is the reason for a social business to operate, whereas a B Corporation is a business that meets rigorous social and environmental standards. It’s absolutely vital that movements like ours work together to create change. That’s why I would invite every self-defining Social Business to seek B Corp status.

The global economic system is no longer fit for purpose and in urgent need of a redesign. The summit showed that a massive global shift is underway. Along with Yunus Social Business, I’m looking forward to being part of this new momentum to harnesses the power of business to help address the greatest global challenges of our times.

Saskia Bruysten is the CEO & Co-Founder of Yunus Social Business.

What Have We Learned - Financing Social Businesses in Uganda. Our Latest Report.

Financing and supporting early-stage businesses in Uganda is not an easy task. In this report with USAID we look at what we have learned from our portfolio over the last few years and how this helps to inform our investment criteria going forward.

This electric rickshaw social business in India are cleaning up polluted streets

Naveen was born and raised in a small village outside Varanasi in Northern India. All his life, he grew up around manual rickshaw drivers carrying people to and from the city, it’s backbreaking work for very little pay. He saw that very often the rickshaw cyclists came from some of the most vulnerable communities, frequently associated with drug and alcohol abuse.

We've been featured in the Hauck & Aufhäuser Magazine (German)

Our Chief Investment Officer, Karen Hitschke, spoke to Gerd Hübner for Hauck & Aufhäuser Magazine about the investments we make with our philanthropic venture funds. Read the article in German below.

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