Community and economic development initiatives have often been seen as an exclusive task for the non-profit or public organizations. This is now quickly changing.
Organizations in the business world have now evolved to include social and environmental metrics to evaluate their performance and are also involving their business development team to come up with services and products that solve some of the world’s most pressing issues.
A good example of this evolution is the existence of Benefit Corporations (B-Corps) which is a legal status conferred by State law in the United States. Companies with this status have the responsibility to consider other company factors beyond shareholders. These type of companies are solving pressing community issues beyond the power of business and have the potential to redefine capitalism. There are currently more than 2,251 organizations with a B-Corp (www.bcorporation.net) status in more than 50 countries representing more than 130 industries.
In addition to a B-Corp status as a good path to benefit communities, innovation and daring business practices to improve the community can be implemented on traditional corporations. A great example of this is CEMEX, a successful Mexican company.
CEMEX, a building materials company that delivers solutions in cement, ready mix, and aggregates, exemplifies this perfectly. CEMEX started as a local company and is now a global building materials company with 13.4 billion in annual sales, 41,000 employees worldwide, operates in more than 50 countries and maintains relationships with more than 100 nations.
A good example of their commitment to developing communities is their program Patrimonio Hoy. Through this program CEMEX facilitates low-income families to have access to finance, building materials and technical assistance to build housing and basic infrastructure. The program was based on market research following an economic downturn. The company identified low-income families in Mexico as a market with a steady need for the company´s products and a large potential for growth. Patrimonio Hoy established in the early 2000 has now won international awards for promoting sustainable development and for their commitment to reduce poverty.
In 2005 CEMEX reported that this program has benefitted 480,000 families, led to 4 million square meters of homes and provided loans exceeding $295 million with a timely payment rate of 99 percent. In addition to this success, the program has been recognized worldwide and received awards such as the 2006 World Business and Development Award.
The program has also been featured as a successful business case in academic institutions such as Harvard University, Northwestern University, University of Michigan and Stanford University.
CEMEX is a great example on how to create impact and improve communities and it serves as proof that there is a new form of capitalism that can develop our communities and solve the world most pressing issues.
Encourage your team to follow this path by exploring what are your communities most pressing issues and evaluating what are the products or services that your company either currently has or can potentially design to solve this.
Creating a community solution not only could improve a business reputation but can also prove to open untapped markets. Ultimately everybody wins.
Seasoned manager and published author with international experience in the design and execution of new business initiatives and developing strategies for new markets; also specialized in the design of initiatives with positive social impact through public–private partnerships. Other specializations include corporate communications, NGO management, and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).