Congratulations Prof. Yunus

2006 Peace Nobel Laureate
Recipient of the Olympic Laurel

Professor Muhammad Yunus has recently been honored with the Olympic Laurel. He will officially receive the trophy during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on 23rd July 2021.

The Olympic Laurel is a distinction created by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to honour outstanding individuals for their achievements in education, culture, development and peace through sport.

Who is Professor Yunus? What is social Business and what does it have to do with sports?

This page answers these questions, and explains how YOU can get involved!

Who is Professor Yunus ?

In the early 1970s, Prof Yunus was serving as Director of the Department of Economics at the University of Chittagong, Bangladesh. He was troubled by the disconnect between the theories he was teaching and the reality of mass poverty as the country was hit by a famine. Prof Yunus decided to engage his students in experimenting economics through practical ways of helping poor people in the village next door. They quickly realized that the best way to help the villagers was to protect them from loan sharks, and to do so, Prof Yunus decided to lend a total of 27$ from his own pocket to 42 women in the village.

The microlending and unique system of support provided to borrowers worked. The model was brought village after village throughout Bangladesh, with the same positive results, leading Prof Yunus to officially create the Grameen Bank (literally translated, the “village” bank) in 1983. The bank and its microcredit approach have since been replicated around the world, lending to tens of millions of borrowers, with a 99% repayment rate.

In 2006, Professor Yunus and the Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their fight against poverty. Professor Yunus has received more than 140 prestigious awards in 36 countries and is one of only seven people in history to have received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom (United States), and the Congressional Medal of Honor (United States).

What is Social Business ?

By extension of the Grameen Bank, a bank to solve the problem of access to credit by poor people, Prof Yunus created the concept of “social business”: a business to solve a social problem.

Unlike a traditional business, the primary mission of a social business is not profit maximization, but solving a social or environmental problem. But unlike the non-profit approach, the social business approach does not require donations, as it uses a financially self-sustainable business model to reach its social goal.

“A charity dollar has only one life: it gets in, does a great job, but it never comes back. A social business has endless lives: it can be invested over and over again”

After creating more than fifty social businesses in Bangladesh (many of which operate on a national-scale and tackle several diverse social challenges) Professor Yunus brought the model to most countries, initiating a worldwide movement.

Why Social Business and Sport ?

Professor Yunus firmly believe that all human being are born entrepreneurs, and his example show us that the social business principles can be applied to any industry: telecommunications, healthcare, banking, agriculture, water distribution (here are our favorite 3 stories on how Prof Yunus changed the Game in Bangladesh). Within certain fields, it has an especially potent ability to ignite change. The sports sector is one of these.

Prof Yunus asserts: “sport is powerful because it is basic to human beings”. Its emotional power draws on basic and fundamental human experiences of sharing a common language, solidarity, and fellowship. In his opening speech at the 129th Session of the International Olympic Committee, during the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Prof Yunus highlighted how social business could be used as a game-changing tool to unleash the sport sector’s potential for large-scale social transformation.

- Social business can be used towards solving problems that are inherent to the sports sector, such as athletes’ financial struggles, gender inequality or exclusion in sport. The IOC’s Athlete365 Business Accelerator, a program aiming at empowering athletes to become entrepreneurs on 5 continents by providing them the skills, tools, access to connections and to potential funders is a perfect example of a social business program aiming at supporting athletes in their financial stability.

- Social business can also be used to solve problems by leveraging the fantastic range of powers sport has to offer . Its economic power, for instance, as a USD 1.3 trillion sector, can be used in the direction of making a meaningful difference in people’s life. The ESS 2024 program, aiming at maximizing the share of the 7 billion euros of the Paris 2024 Games budget that will be spent with social business suppliers, which can not only deliver the products or services needed for the Games (catering for instance), but will do it by solving a social problem (for example, only hiring long term unemployed people)

As a longer term vision, Prof Yunus would like to provide his support to transform sport in a social business driven sector. The sports sector, at present, stays largely in black and white, on two ends of the spectrum: the mega-revenue, business and entertainment-focused sports industry on one end, and grassroots sport for development efforts on another. Social business can be a tool to create a strong middle way that allows more financial independence for the grass-roots, better social outcomes from mega-sports, and more potential to redesign a system that creates problematic binaries.

As an aspiring entrepreneur, a sports organization employee, a funder, or event organizer, you have the power to leverage social business and solve problems. That’s what we’re here to help you do, wherever you are if you want to solve problems sustainable & leverage sports to do so. Take that step; we’ll work with you to use sport & social business to create a solution.

How to get involved ?

Learn, take action, & empower others
Make your NGO or charity more self-sustainable
See how social business can help your organization
Bring your business to the next level