Butare launched her Kinazi Dairy Cooperative in 2012 to help Rwandan
genocide survivors, who had been given cows under a government
assistance program, but who were struggling to sell and market their
milk. The initiative now serves more than 3,200 farmers, and supplies
markets in Rwanda and Burundi.
Fact: More and more consumers are demanding socially responsible products.
Since 1993, Americans’ enthusiasm to shop with a conscience has sky-rocketed. Increasing more than 20 percentage points during the last 20 years, U.S. consumer likelihood to opt for brands associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality, has jumped from two-thirds of the population in 1993 to nearly the entire population in 2013.
This trend will undoubtedly continue with the coming of age of Millenials, the first generation of Americans who have grown up alongside cause marketing. Numbering more than 80 million Americans, they are the largest cohort the U.S. has ever seen – and an undeniable force. Millennials are hyperaware of, and have high expectations for, corporate social responsibility efforts to make the world a better place – for themselves and broader society.
Source: Cone Communications, 2013 Social Impact Report
What happens when a social enterprise and an oil giant join forces?
By Astrid Zweynert, Reuters, September 27, 2013
San Francisco-based social enterprise d.light used to produce between 20,000 and 30,000 of its solar-powered lamps a month, selling them to people in rural Africa and India with limited access to electricity.
Today, it makes more than 500,000 per month, thanks to a very big customer: the French oil and gas company Total, which sells d.light’s products as part of “Access to Energy Program” throughout Africa on a business-to-consumer basis.
The program brought challenges for both sides, according to Donn Tice, d.light’s chairman and CEO, and Robinson Alazraki, head of products development and purchase at Total’s “Access to Energy Program,” who discussed their collaboration during a September panel at SOCAP, a conference that aims to increase the flow of capital towards social good.
But the partnership worked because d.light and Total have a shared purpose: to get solar appliances into the hands of customers at an affordable price, Tice said.
To meet Total’s standards, the for-profit social enterprise had to increase its production and the quality of its lamps, which charge on their own during the daytime, shine for at least four hours at night, and are designed to last more than five years.
Two years ago the company conducted a significant product recall, one that required a “seven-figure” commitment to make right, Tice said.
“If it goes wrong … it goes wrong on a large scale,” he said.
Asked for his advice on partnering with a multinational, Tice said: “Fasten your seat belt low and tight around your waist and prepare for turbulence.”
The standard model d.light lamp costs $30, a significant investment for d.light’s core customers. But the company has sold about 3 million lamps in the last five years after it found out that people–even if they only earn a few dollars per day–are willing to pay for a product that improves their lives.
Solar lamps aren’t new but they will have a growing role to play in providing inexpensive and safe evening lights in parts of the world without the money or grid access for electricity, or in places looking for more sustainable sources of light, experts said.
Kerosene lamps, still in use in many parts of the developing world, can cost at least $10 to run, produce toxic fumes, and can cause burns if knocked over.
It was a kerosene lamp accident that gave birth to d.light.
In 2004, when d.light co-founder Sam Goldman was in Benin on a Peace Corps mission, his neighbor’s son was badly burned by an overturned kerosene lamp. This incident, along with the knowledge that 2.3 billion people in the world still do not have access to reliable electricity, inspired him to learn more about affordable design solutions and to develop his first prototype lamp with co-founder Ned Tozun.
Why You Should Start a Social Enterprise in College
…Yet we became a team when our class was assigned to present a business idea in a five-minute YouTube video. We had a variety of skill-sets, interests and experiences, ranging from the Silicon Valley tech scene to microfinance programs in Tanzania. But we realized that we shared a common passion in our mutual Indian heritage and the desire to address the vast challenges that exist in India. Armed with an abstract concept, a handmade greeting card prototype, and an excess of enthusiasm, we ‘pitched’ the idea to classmates, retail workers, browsers at the local bookstore, and unsuspecting customers in frozen yogurt shops. As we heard ourselves and each other pitch the idea as our own, it grew from an assignment to a dream.
Working on My Card My Story (MCMS) on campus had a way of pushing open doors we had never even imagined. Danner encouraged us to apply to Princeton’s business competition, TigerLaunch. With a few tweaks, we submitted our final project. After a whirlwind day of pitching to investors and judges, we came in second place in the Social Track, securing $2,000 in seed capital. It was the vote of confidence we needed to take our business model from paper to product.
As college students we were old enough to design something sensible yet young enough to dream big. We hunched over laptops with shared Google Docs and worked late into the night on business plans and website designs, relegating assignments, exams, and thesis chapters to the early morning. We attended public lectures with entrepreneurial speakers and waited by the door to ambush the panelists for help and advice. Conversations with friends, family, and strangers turned into “Do you know anybody who…” brainstorming sessions. Every time a spontaneous conversation yielded a new contact or a potential order of cards for their company, we shot off enthusiastic emails to each other.
Someone I knew in my life BB (before Burundi) once told me that I’d be doing better by the world if I were starting a business (as of course he was) than I would be by working at a clinic in the developing world. His argument involved something about job stimulus, classism and xenophobia… I forget the finer points.
Well, happy news! I’ve been promoted. I’m now leading our Economic Development programs. Effectively, I’m helping to start four new businesses that will benefit more than 100 women (victims of gender based violence, specifically) and their families, not to mention aid in developing a naissent economy in the world’s 4th poorest country. We’re using a co-op model that will pay everyone fair wage and then reinvesting any additional profits into business training and micro insurance.
I’ll end there because I’m on the edge of my ability to remain civil. I’ll just close with a great big, “How'ya like them apples?"
'Creative Capitalism' and future business strategy?
I participated in a radio panel on ‘creative capitalism’ - which Bill Gates introduced at a WEF event in 2008 as “Profits + Philanthropy”.
Got me thinking and here is where I’ve got to:
“It isn’t about corporate philanthropy anymore. What you do with your profits is not as important as how you earn them. The successful businesses of the future will create shared value for their suppliers and supplier communities and their customers and customer communities, as well as their staff. The new game is creating wealth for the world, not only for a small group of shareholders”.