Cover Story: BIZ 3.0 -- Make $$$ and Embrace Your Inner Philanthropist; New Models for Addressing Everything from World Poverty to Food Security and Affordable Education Are Sprouting Up across the Globe. Ruth le Pla Wonders If Business Could, after All, Help Save the World

Article excerpt

Byline: Ruth Le Pla

When Sacha McMeeking, a self-described "lawyer-come-lobbyist from the Mainland", steps into the spotlight at the recent Deloitte/Management magazine Top 200 Awards she poses a simple question.

"What do you get," she asks the 760-plus business leaders, "when you combine the passion and connectivity of community, with the innovation and drive of business, and the authority of government?"

The answer, says McMeeking, is a business model that, overseas, has led to a 38 percent drop in deaths from malaria. It is responsible for installing hygienic toilets in mega-shanty towns, creating employment for tens of thousands of women in Africa and access to micro-credit for hundreds of thousands of SMEs.

"These examples matter because none of them are the products of philanthropic largesse," McMeeking tells New Zealand's most senior business leaders. "They're all examples of where business has made good money by doing good things."

McMeeking calls her vision for the future of commerce, Business 3.0. It's the evolutionary step that binds business to beneficence. And it's a quantum leap from current 'good' business practices that back up worthy causes through sponsorship, donations or grants.

If Business 1.0 was the "undiluted, ravenous pursuit of profit", as McMeeking tells her audience, Business 2.0 was about doing good by not doing bad. It was triple bottom line accounting, minimising bad impacts, generous philanthropy and "some fabulous CSR reports".

"But Business 3.0 is our next evolution so that we can, together, do good stuff while making good money... This is about leveraging our intellect and the entirety of our balance sheets rather than the small trickles that constitute our philanthropic funds," she says. "It's about using passion, intellect and financial grunt to solve problems that matter to us all."

Business 3.0 signals it's time for business folk to embrace their inner philanthropist. It gives the thumbs up to social activists wanting to make peace with their capitalist within.

McMeeking is tapping into a groundswell of activity that has been gathering momentum right round the world for some time now under a wide variety of guises and names. (See box story "Look who's talking".)

It encompasses everything from microfinance -- where tiny slivers of credit might mean a poor villager can buy a buffalo and sell its milk at a profit -- to hands-on practical projects providing housing, education or clean water. Together they aim to find new solutions to some of the world's toughest problems.

McMeeking sees Business 3.0 as a global step-change occurring across both macro- and micro-levels. At the macro level, global companies are exploring bottom-of-the-pyramid growth strategies, using social innovation models to generate employment that creates the disposable income to increase product sales.

At the micro level, social entrepreneurs are working globally to address social and environmental challenges through for-profit businesses.

Pie in the sky stuff? Not according to business giants Danone, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, and a string of other multinationals and Fortune 500 companies.

Not according to leading management thinker C K Prahalad, either, who first alerted the business world to opportunities to help meet the needs of the world's five billion poor.

Nine years ago, he reckoned they were a collective market of US$12 trillion. Some say that's now likely to be closer to US$14 to $15 trillion.

And not according to influential global entrepreneur Richard Branson or a growing number of next-generation thinkers and do-ers who see the old ways aren't fair, aren't working and who are busting to try something new.

Over in Asia, for example, new models of entrepreneurial innovation are already shaping the region's social and economic future, helping to address developmental issues while providing economic good. …