Use social business to meet SDGs: Yunus


Antipoverty crusader Muhammad Yunus has called for using social businesses to achieve sustainable development goals and transform the world in a viable way.

“We do not want to miss this historic opportunity to transform the world in the next 15 years,” Yunus said in a recorded speech aired on Thursday during the seventh Global Social Business Summit currently taking place in Berlin.

Yunus said although he could not make it to the summit because of sudden illness his heart is with the event.

Themed “Creating a World Without Poverty and Unemployment”, the three-day annual gathering is taking place on the grounds of historic Berlin Tempelhof Airport.

The summit is organised by the Grameen Creative Lab in Germany and the Yunus Centre in Bangladesh in partnership with German tourism agency visitBerlin, the YY Foundation of Germany and Yunus Social Business.

Some are saying that there are too many or too few sustainable development goals (SDGs), according to Yunus. “But the important thing is that you cannot ignore a single goal.”

“These are the goals that are knitted in our hearts. We have firm commitments to achieving these goals — we have to make sure that it happens.”

He said the 17 SDGs and the Three Zeros — Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment and Zero Net Carbon Emissions — together can transform the world in a completely different way.

The GSBS kicked off with performance from Syrian rock band Khebez Dawle. Its members — Hekmat Qassar, Anas Maghrebi and Muhammad Bazz — fled the ongoing war in their home country and reached Berlin a month ago as refugees.

They sang, in Arabic lyrics, to communicate what they went through before coming to the German capital.

  The Grameen Bank founder, who was part of the UN Secretary General’s advisory committee on the Millennium Development Goals, the predecessor of the SDGs, said although the 17 SDGs were adopted by the United Nations, everyone should play a part in meeting the goals.

“It is also down to us and the youth community to reach the goals,” Yunus said.

He said all human beings are creative and are born entrepreneurs and their creativeness and entrepreneurial skills have to be utilised to achieve the SDGs.

Yunus called for equipping the youth with technology in order to achieve goals.

“If we can empower the youth with technology, they will be unbeatable. And if we can put the social business engine in the picture, we will be able to achieve positive results.”

Hans Reitz, head of Global Social Business Summit, said the social business movement started in Bangladesh and it is expanding to other countries.

The current economic system has to be redesigned in a way that it can shape villages, cities and countries, Reitz added.

Burkhard Kieker, chief executive of visitBerlin, said the summit is taking place at a time when they are setting up 200 beds for Syrian refugees in the two hangars of the historic airport, which is not functional anymore.

The summit can help give new ideas such that these people can have a chance to have a new future, he said.

Lamiya Morshed, executive director of Dhaka-based Yunus Centre, said: “We are trying to make impossible possible through social business.”

During an expert dialogue styled “From the homo economicus to a human economy’ on Wednesday, Tania Singer, director of Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, asked the businesses to be more compassionate to create a more caring society.

She said the current incentive system in the business world, which awards individual efforts, has created a sort of addiction among the employees. So, the businesses should award the collective effort behind their success.

Joining her on the stage was Emmanuel Faber, chief executive of French food company Danone, one of the first companies in the world to have started social business.

Faber said: “We have committed ourselves to the model because it is reassuring. We know this will create values in the long run.”

“We know profit is a consequence, but a living organisation has to do it in a sustainable way.” A number of participants said the absence of Yunus in the summit would be largely felt.

“At the same time, we have to keep working, keeping in mind that the idea is bigger than the individuals,” said Uwe Heuser, head of editorial business department of Die Zeit, a German national weekly newspaper, who moderated the dialogue.

One participant said this is the time to show Yunus that the tree of social business has grown.

Also on Thursday, three panel discussions on social business took place.

In the discussion styled ‘Spreading Social Business from Bangladesh into the World’, Huzzatul Islam Latifee, managing director of Grameen Trust; M Shahjahan, former MD of Grameen Bank; Parveen Mahmud, MD of Grameen Telecom Trust; and Ashraful Hassan, MD of Grameen Telecom, took part.

Source: The Daily Star