The concept of social business is not only a deconstruction of the business concept, but also a question mark over the effectiveness of humanitarian policies and the fight against poverty. In fact, the cultivation of profit embedded in the business concept remains open to criticism from an ethical point of view despite the new concept of corporate social responsibility.
In contrast to conventional companies, which are arranged according to the requirement of profit and performance, social-business companies thus see themselves solely supported by a social cause. The social issue at stake here should not be confused with humanitarian aid or charitable work. It is a matter of giving the poor the chance to open up to sustainable individual and collective initiatives that yield results for the definitive eradication of poverty.
Author of microfinance, YUNUS defends the idea that we can lend to the poor without asking them for repayment guarantees. Gramen Bank, of which he is the founder, is the first social enterprise that will have enabled many Bangladeshis to get out of poverty. YUNUS ‘approach is based on a philosophy of money, which places man at the center of the economy. The theory of the free market seems to have led to man being forgotten, and in passing the values formatted altruism and solidarity.
The institution of microcredit as desired by YUNUS and the successes achieved in the dynamics complete the belief that the theory of the free market and finance has a very limited effectiveness. In fact, one of the flaws of classical finance lies in believing that the poor are unable to pay back and that any social business initiative is doomed to fail. Gramen Bank’s success proves the exact opposite. What particularly characterizes the business ethics at YUNUS is precisely the belief in people. For YUNUS, the poor do not really ask for charity, they are capable of initiatives that bring results, as long as they get the chance to unleash their talents. Therefore, lending to the poor without requiring guarantees at extremely low interest rates is a major innovation in the financial world.
Social business is a business ethic whose profits are invested in initiatives to empower vulnerable people. Individuals who make their assets available to social business enterprises do not benefit from the interest generated by these assets, but can, according to the key principle of social business, withdraw their assets at any time.
Social business is a kind of uninterested business, that is, not part of the profit logic. Because microcredit is an effective tool in the fight against poverty, it is important that it be disseminated to the most vulnerable people. Unfortunately, it is appropriate in passing to condemn a misguided practice of microcredit, which in many countries today mimics the traditional banking system by demanding repayment guarantees. However, the specifics of microcredit are precisely not to require guarantees. But to reduce the risk of non-refund, there is a joint guarantee. Business ethics, within the framework of social business, consists in rejecting what YUNUS calls “a financial apartheid”, which is this systemic and systematic isolation of vulnerable people.
The business ethics that YUNUS intends to lead, and which have a special resonance, participate in the therapy of what he calls “social pleasures”. One of the most remarkable achievements in the invention of microcredit was to show the world that the solution to the problem of poverty is not the creation of employment but the incentive for self-employment. This is especially controllable among women who produce goods and services to sell them in their respective locations. Microcredit seems to have defied the rules of the classical financial system limited to the pursuit of maximum profit and showed that this system does not allow economic activity to respond to social problems.
The Gramen Bank initiative is driven by a belief in people and their ability to create. The initiative also shows that the fear of poverty and hunger is not insurmountable. The only price to pay is the willingness to help the poor to help themselves. Poverty is the ultimate denial of human rights because it prevents poor people from unleashing their creative energy to secure their daily lives and defend their basic civil rights. The action in Gramen Bank, like other social enterprises, is part of improving the everyday lives of vulnerable people, because from an ethical point of view, the entrepreneur is the one who aims to work for the prosperity of society as a whole. It has the task of innovating economic activity by creating new factors of production.
The poor can participate in the economic life of their communities if given the opportunity to unleash their creative potential.
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By SAMANDOULGOU W. Serge Denis