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Bring social business into mainstream, speakers say at Bangkok event

Tanvir Sufi, from Bangkok | Published: June 29, 2019 09:37:00 | Updated: July 08, 2019 11:57:52


Professor Muhammad Yunus addressing the opening session of 9th Social Business Day in Bangkok on Friday— FE Photo

Experts and dignitaries laid on Friday emphasis on bringing the social business into the mainstream rather than applying it as a marginal business model.

The real benefit of social business can be reaped, when it overtakes the traditional way of doing business.

They made the observations at the inaugural session of the Ninth Social Business Day programme in Bangkok on Friday.

Two keynote speeches were delivered by Armida Alisjahbana, executive secretary of United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), and Mechai Viravaidya, chairman of Mechai Viravaidya Foundation, a leading non-government organisation in Thailand.

In her speech Ms Alisjahbana said businesses have been a source of employment, but often at the cost of environmental degradation. Therefore, a fundamental shift in the business objective is necessary, if businesses and the private sector want to contribute to sustainable development. 

"Economic policy is traditionally focused on productivity gains and economic competitiveness. With emphasis on inclusion and sustainability in the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, economic policy must move beyond its traditional focus to include both social justice and environmental protection," she said.

Innovation in business models is necessary to achieve sustainable development and shift people's mind from the conventional way of doing business, she added.

While delivering his keynote speech, Mr Viravaidya said the learning of social business and social entrepreneurship must begin from primary schools, not just from universities, to see the world change in a better way.

"For real development we must use schools as a gateway to social and economic advancement," he said.

Lessons on environmental protection, democracy and anti-corruption must begin from schools, he added.

In his opening address Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus said that sports have the power to transform society.

'Sports are a big force. It's only used for commercial gains, but never for social proposes", he said.

In his speech he revealed that France had taken an initiative to transform Paris 2024 Olympics into social business Olympics.

He also said mankind is facing an existential challenge due to the negative impacts of climate change.

Stressing the point that money can never be synonymous with happiness, he said that happiness is about contributing to the world.

"Economic theory invented artificial human beings who are driven by self-interest", he said.

Economics is anything but social science, because the social aspect is missing from this discipline as it describes us as living beings with self-interest, he added.

Social business is a concept developed by Muhammad Yunus, a Nobel Laureate in Peace, which stresses cause-driven business to address any social problem.

In a social business, the investors or owners are allowed to take back their original invested amount but not the profit. Profit has to be reinvested to continue and expand the business.

The theme of this year's Social Business Day is based on Professor Yunus' enduring motto: 'Making Money is Happiness, Making Other People Happy is Super Happiness.'

Lamiya Morshed, executive director of Yunus Centre, delivered the welcome address.

A brief cultural programme, featuring Muay Thai artistes, marked the inaugural session.

Social Business Day is an annual two-day conference organised by the Yunus Centre, and is hosted by Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus.

The Yunus Centre at the Asian Institute of Technology (YCA) in Thailand is hosting the annual event in Bangkok this year.

Some 1,500 delegates from 60 countries, including Antarctica along with icons of social innovation and entrepreneurship from all over the world are attending the conference.

Some nine parallel panel sessions took place on the opening day of the conference. Experts, politicians, economists, businesses, entrepreneurs, social workers, activities, researchers and students took part in these sessions. They talked, discussed and debated on prospective role of social business in education, technology, environment, health, microfinance and culture.

The first-day of the event concluded with a cultural programme where K -Von, an actor and comedian from the United States of America (USA) performed. He was followed by YSBC Kasetsart Cultural Performance.

The two-day conference will end today (Saturday).

tanvir.ifus@gmail.com

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