On Sept 24 B Lab UK hosted the event “Change is coming” the official launch of 62 certified UK B Corps at Proud Galleries in Camden, London. The B Corp movement is gaining momentum and now there are over 1400 companies across 42 countries that are B Corp certified and a number that is growing by the day. In this event it was inspiring to hear the founders of Bridges Ventures, COOK, Fairphone, and Streetlife talk about their businesses and their road to become B Corps. It was also a great gathering to network with the B Corp global community as many leaders were present such as Bart Houlahan, (B Lab Co-Founder), Marcello Palazzi (B Lab Europe Co-founder), and Pedro Tarak (Co-founder of Sistema B, B Corp South America).
There was also a big announcement made by Bart that B Lab is establishing a Multinationals and Public Markets (MPM) Advisory Council as of January 2016 as a strong response for the growing number of multinationals and publicly listed companies that are interested in joining the B Corp movement. In a video message delivered by Paul Polman, Unilever CEO, he announced that Unilever will participate in the MPM Advisory Council and invited others to join them to achieve a collective vision of a global economy where all businesses work to create a more shared and durable prosperity for all. Yes, change is coming!
This year’s Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship was titled FLUX: Seizing momentum and driving change. This forum continues to be one of the best venues to meet up, update, share, collaborate and form new partnerships between all the players, social enterprises, private sector and public sector. One of my favourites talks at this year’s Skoll Forum was Hans Rowling’s presentation on the future of world population.
The microcredit crisis in India has been unfolding since mid October when the state of Andra Pradesh issued an ordinance to crackdown on microlenders. The ordinance required that all microlenders cease disbursing and collecting loans, register to the authorities and declare the interests charged. The state was concerned with the explosive growth of loans and around 50 suicides reports by rural men and women that were attributed to overindebtness. Although some of the MFIs have been able to resume their activities this kneejerk reaction by the state of Andra Pradesh has sent the industry into a crisis and is more likely to do harm than protect the poor borrowers. Shares of SKS Microfinance which had a successful IPO in August this year has been plunging and is currently less than half of its peak in September.The Indian microcredit industry is the largest in the world. The state of Andra Pradesh is the center of microcredit in India and home to India’s largest MFIs such as SKS, Spandana, BASIX and Share Microfin as well as the government nurtured Self-Help Groups or SHGs. There has been excellent writeups on this subject and background which I can highly recommend.
- Indian Microfinance Crisis of 2010: Turf War or a Battle of Intentions? Intellecap White Paper
- Who is the Culprit? Accessing Finance in Andra Pradesh, CGAP
- India’s Microfinance Crisis is a Battle to Monopolize the Poor, Vineet Rai, HBR
- Backgrounder on India’s Microfinance Crisis, David Roodman
On April 23rd I visited the bakery of Luisa and Luis in Tecpán, Guatemala. Luisa is a client of Fafidess, a leading MFI in Guatemala that provides microcredits, training and technical assistance to groups of Guatemalan indigienous women with limited resources. My last visit was back in August 2005. The business has been growing steadily on the back of new acquisitions of institutional clients (hotels and restaurants in the area). Monthly sales have more than doubled from Q 16,000 to Q 35,000 (USD 2000 to USD 4375) during this period. There were two other areas where a lot of progress could be seen. As the business increased its clients to hotels and restaurants that need invoice, the bakery has slowly moved to the formal sector and now they hire an external accountant for bookkeeping. The other change which impressed me the most was on the education of the children. In 2005 Luisa’s 3 older daughters: Angela, Rosy and Carmen (who were then 17,15 and 13) were helping at the bakery so they could only attend Saturday/Sunday school. Nelson the only boy at 9 years old was attending full time school and the youngest girl Sonia, 5 years old was at home. I had asked then Luisa if Sonia would be able to attend full time school next year. Luisa said maybe. During our current visit, Nelson and Sonia came back from school wearing their uniforms. Yes Sonia is now attending full time school. Furthermore, Angela, now 21 has finshed the weekend school and told me she wanted to enroll to University to study business administration! See photos of this visit.