Sowing the seed of purpose
It is week eight for me as the CEO of Business for Development, following on from Mark Ingram, both Founder and CEO for over ten years. Thank youMark, for your leadership in creating Business for Development (B4D). You and the founding partners of B4D had the foresight that if we are really going to be on the path to solve entrenched poverty, then the private sector needs to be involved.
I have found my time over the past eight weeks’ to be invigorating, exciting and full of purpose – a purpose that serves many stakeholders. I believe business, inclusive business, is always on the right track when it is serving more than one stakeholder group. Our ultimate ‘customer’ is of course each person who exits poverty because they have created or joined an enterprise. What I love most about the B4D model is that everyone in the value chain, from resourcing companies, to retailers, to offtake partners, to governments, etc. are all contributing to the purpose – to bring enterprise to those in rural poverty. This is Shared Value at its finest – when everyone benefits.
I am drafting my first blog with optimism at the tail end of the Responsible Business Forum for Food and Agriculture – a two-day conference steeped in learnings but also the complexity of the challenges ahead. The energy of the conference, speakers and participants backed by the reminder of Christine Lagarde’s quote “don’t let complexity lead us to complacency” has been fuel for all our souls. We are leaving with the knowledge that the road ahead is complex, but we won’t be complacent and we know that we are together in the mission. A mission that is not just driven by a shared moral compass, but one that has business, community and cultural benefits.
The panel I participated in was a topic which is near and dear to my heart, ‘Human Rights and Women Empowerment in the Food and Agriculture Chain’. A robust discussion, which of course highlighted what B4D knows all too well – when women are given the same access to the inputs needed for an effective value chain every metric moves in the right direction. Yields, margins, well-being, family cohesion and the rest – they all go up.
Understanding the complex dynamics of a cultural system – how men and women each have a role to play in driving change and developing new market systems, which improve income opportunities is a core tenet in our approach. Never pushy, and always understanding and respecting the socioeconomic norms we are operating in, we listen, work together and stay the course.
Getting ready to head back to Melbourne, my new abode, I am looking forward to working on our strategy with our Board and the amazing B4D team, including Eddie Chibu our Manager in Kenya. There is a world of possibilities ahead and I am thrilled to be part of the B4D team.