Fix capitalism flaws , says Nobel Laureate

Friday, 9 December 2011 01:20 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Prof. Yunus of Grameen

Bank fame in Sri Lanka to promote social business

By Uditha Jayasinghe

In order to promote inclusive and sustainable development, the flaws of capitalism must be fixed, said Nobel Laureate Prof. M. Yunus, who landed in Sri Lanka last afternoon ahead of a corporate seminar today. Creating and implementing the idea of ‘social business,’ which refers to enterprise without a purely profit motive, has assisted the fight against poverty and other social inequalities.

This is the message that Prof. Yunus hopes to spread in Sri Lanka. He is confident that human civilisation has reached a point where it must look beyond mere greed and pay attention to how it can help marginalised people reach their full potential.

“Social business started with my Grameen experience, where we gave microfinance to extremely poor people who would not have been assisted by the conventional banking system.


The idea is to think creatively and come up with business ideas that can help people while earning back the investment. It is classified as business because it helps society but is still self sustaining and does not live on government handouts.”

Prof. Yunus talking to the Daily FT insisted that the concept was viable and fast-catching up in several countries, including Japan, UK, and India. He recalled that he had created over 50 companies without intending to make a profit, which included ventures that gave solar electricity to rural Bangladeshi communities and special nutritious yoghurt to malnourished kids.

The latest venture is a tie-up with the Japanese company that hopes to start a chain of restaurants where people can eat affordable and healthy food. In Prof. Yunus’s eyes these are simple yet innovative things that corporates and individuals can do to promote social business. It has the added benefit of not waiting for government intervention.

“We cannot leave everything in the lap of the Government. As empowered people, we also have the responsibility to do something about society’s problems. This can be the start of real change; for once you have started a social business, it can inspire others to grow the project or even do something completely different. But the idea is the same – to do something de-linked from the idea of profit.”

Social businesses build the “right kind of civilisation” he noted, pointing out the financial crisis that is still gripping the world. Companies that engage in Corporate Social Responsibility or donate to a foundation were encouraged by Prof. Yunus to branch out into social business to make the effort more sustainable.