I once heard an American entrepreneur say that you can feed a few mouths, or you can feed many mouths. This comment struck me as both intriguing and amazing. For a long time now, I’ve had a strong interest in ethical entrepreneurship: in entrepreneurs who are able to “see the bigger picture” of life. I like to think that this is because I, too, can also see beyond the shades of money. But I cannot write about the good guys in the global business community without writing about the bad ones, who seem to dominate things. I’ve always been saddened by the lack of ethics in the business world, and I’m sure there are others in the world who feel the same. “Business” and “ethics” aren’t usually uttered in the same breath, let alone in the same sentence. From what I’ve seen and heard, there seems to be a major problem of institutional corruption in the business world. The rampant greed, exploitation, environmental and atmospheric destruction and market manipulation seem to be relentless – and I’m not even at the sharp end of any of this madness, so imagine how people who are must feel; yes, I’m referring to the peoples of what is known as the Third World. They are at the punishing ends of unfettered capitalism, and have been for many decades.
I’m appalled at the widespread corporate devastation that continues to rage on unabated, but I’m also appalled at what feels like – at least to me – widespread silence and apathy from many consumers, especially in the industrialised West, which comprises the biggest, and most influential, bloc of consumers in the world. Perhaps it’s true that faraway pain and suffering has little, if not any, resonance with faraway people, who are too busy dealing with their own problems. I suspect that they [the corporate titans of the world] don’t want the masses to fully realise that they have more power than they think. Perhaps a global intellectual revolution is due. Anybody with me?
I can name hundreds of major companies that, in some form or another, have violated the laws of different lands, as well as the laws of human ethics. I mean, come on, when was the last time you heard of an industrial power whose hands haven’t been tainted by the grease of greed and corruption? What I’m trying to articulate through words is that this kind of horrid behaviour seems to be the norm among the upper echelons of the business world. But just as how I can give you examples of rapacious corporations, so, too, can I give you examples of those businesses that have embedded social principles into their very own DNA. Some of the very best examples that I can think of are fromBangladesh, such as Waste Concern, Grameen Phone and Grameen bank. These are remarkable organisations that don’t just put all of their emphasis on the bottom line. So there are definitely reasons to be cheerful, just letting you know.
The growth of social enterprises in recent years has no doubt been a positive trend, and, hopefully, one that will continue to gain traction all over the world, not just in countries like Bangladesh and India, where social entrepreneurship has rooted itself into the cultures of those two lands, despite the sad fact that corruption is still widespread in these two countries. There has also been a boom in literature on the growth of ethical businesses in recent times, some more convincing and interesting than others, such as Banker to the Poor, written by Grameen Bank’s founder, Muhammad Yunus; this is a truly inspirational book that should be read by the young and old.
This is indeed a subject of great importance for the world because what goes on in the business world has far-reaching ramifications for the wider world in which we all have to participate in. And I wholeheartedly believe that the world would be a better place if there was an abundance of businessmen and women who had unshakable principles guiding them in their daily lives. Such men and women will actually be the saviours of capitalism itself. Think about that.