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Building Social Business in Your Organization: Successful Ventures to Inspire You

Beauty can come from ashes. Professor Yunus’s Nobel Prize-winning work shows this. It gives us immense hope as the world promises an opportunity for building anew. Here are three steps (with examples!) to help your corporation build social business and lead the new normal.

A devastating famine struck Bangladesh in 1973. It was the depth of starvation and underlying poverty that prompted Professor Yunus’s action. It led to the founding of his first social business, the Grameen Bank, and 40 years of solving the toughest social problems through sustainable business models.

We share that because it’s an opportunity to follow suit. Within the sports industry especially, you can benefit from the Professor’s social business principles. Today, consumers expect it. Society wants to see corporations serve humanity. It demands the rebuilding of a broken economic system.

Sport has so much to offer in rebuilding. The sports industry is beginning to see that. It’s shifting its mindset about the purpose behind its products and services while looking to Professor Yunus’s method to structure new tracks.

Inspirations from the corporate world

Though social business in the sports sector is a more recent phenomenon, our team under Professor Yunus has spent several decades creating strong social businesses. Names you know like Danone, Veolia, UNIQLO, BASF or BNP Paribas are just some who work with our team to create social businesses through their existing corporation. Here are a couple of examples of the social problems they address and how they develop solutions in line with their corporate missions:

UNIQLO: in 2011, Japanese lifestyle brand UNIQLO partnered with the Grameen Bank to start a social business called Grameen UNIQLO. The business’s first objective is to solve problems of 1) poor working standards for factory employees in Bangladesh 2) lack of sustainable employment and 3) lack of quality, locally sourced products for Bangladeshis. Their solution is producing and selling all products of Grameen UNIQLO in Bangladesh, providing quality working conditions, fair pay, and affordable pricing.

Danone: The Danone Group was the first corporate entity to take on Professor Yunus’s approach of creating a non-dividend structure through their company. Grameen Danone was founded to solve the problem of malnutrition amongst Bangladeshi children. They sell a nutrient-fortified yogurt at an affordable price for the poor, while also covering all business expenses. All profits of Grameen Danone go back into the business to keep solving problems, including providing employment for poor women as yogurt sellers.

Photo by Theodore Goutas

BNP Paribas: in 2018, BNP Paribas and an employee, Sebastien Nunes, created Climate Seed, a one-stop platform for voluntary carbon offsetting. It allows responsible investors to offset unavoidable emissions, connecting them with fantastic sustainable projects all around the world. The method is transparent and sustainability-oriented. Under the leadership of BNP Paribas executives Antoine Sire and Claudia Belli, BNP Paribas committed to creating at least one new social business (meaning one new legal structure with seed funding from BNP Paribas) per year over the next five years.

Organizations are now using social business in conjunction with sports to solve problems. The International Volleyball Federation is one case study to look towards. Stemming from the federation’s reflection on their role in society (beach volleyball values a clean beach!), their Good Net project was created to tackle the problem of pollution from ghost fishing nets in oceans and on beaches. Their solution? Recycle the ghost nets to produce volleyball nets. Revenues generated from nets sold will go back into the business to keep solving the problem of keeping oceans and beaches clean. What does your sports organization stand for? Reflecting on that is a great place to begin.

The Benefits of Social Business in your Corporation (on top of solving a problem)

Even the more skeptical of your colleagues (or bosses) will find benefits to starting a social business.

  • HR: Social business re-connects employees to a deeper sense of social purpose. It attracts and retains talent (especially amongst millennials and Gen Z). It upholds HR policies for pro-bono opportunities and ultimately improves organizational culture.

Professor Yunus is acknowledged as the “Father of Social Business” not just because of his unparalleled experience building social business, but because he has built a network that can apply & build social business within niche industries. Yunus Sports Hub is his global social business network creating solutions to human problems in and through sport.

We believe you can make a difference in and through your organization. We’re here to help you do it!