"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

G. B. Shaw

miércoles, 30 de enero de 2008

Día de la República de India

वौल्ड लिके तो कांग्रतुलाते अल माय इंडियन फ्रिएंड्स फॉर ठिर रेपुब्लिक डे। इ हद थे चांस तो विसित यौर अमजिंग कोउन्ट्री इन २००६ ऎंड होपेफुल्ली विल विसित अगं इन थे नार फुतुरे। लॉन्ग लाइफ तो इंडिया, थे गंगा रिवर, थे हिमालायास ऎंड अबोवे अल थे ग्रेट इंडियन पीपुल। विथ देअरेस्ट विशेस.

¡Un afectuoso saludo para todos mis amigos indios en el 58vo Día de la República!

Digg this

domingo, 27 de enero de 2008

Unleashing the Power of Social Enterprise

Interesante discurso de Paul Martin, ex Primer Ministro de Canadá, sobre la naturaleza, rol y potencial transformador de las empresas sociales. Nótese como éstas expresan los principios liberales con coherencia y claridad. Asímismo me parece muy importante resaltar que las empresas sociales no pertenecen al Tercer Sector; a diferencia de las Organizaciones Privadas Sin Fines de Lucro (OPSFL) las primeras incorporan mecanismos de gestión del sector privado para efectos de autosostenimiento financiero pero sin renunciar a su misión social/medioambiental predominante. De dádivas no vive el hombre...


For immediate release
November 8, 2007

Speaking Notes for the Right Honourable Paul Martin P.C., M.P., Unleashing the Power of Social Enterprise

Toronto, Ontario
Check against delivery

It is a great pleasure for me to be here with you this afternoon and a great honour to have been invited by the wonderful and formidable Janice Stein to give a lecture at the Munk Centre.

Before I begin however – one exculpatory caveat! How I came to be a proponent of social enterprise, I will explain in the course of my remarks. But given that these are to be followed by a period of questions and comments, I would like to point out that there are a number of social enterprise advocates who are among us today and who have been trying to break the shackles of conventional thinking for a long time, certainly long before me. Based on their experience and knowledge, they should be doing the speaking and I the listening, and I very much hope we will be hearing from them before the afternoon is over.

Over the last 150 years, there has been a never ending debate between those who espouse the free market on the one hand and socialism on the other. It is clear now that the free market has won out – and it has won out because, at its core it gives full flower to individual ambition and entrepreneurship and because of this, it delivers best.

That being said, let there be no illusion. It is not the free market in pure form that has emerged triumphant. We do not live in a Darwinian economy, and, no one with any sense would recommend we do so.

The fact is all developed countries depend heavily in one way or another on government for the delivery of public goods: universal primary and secondary school education, and public infrastructure, to cite only two examples.

Thus, few would deny today the importance of the state in providing the social inputs that enable the modern economy to grow. What is less well recognized however is the contribution made by another building block in our social and economic structure - the charitable sector, which plays an essential role in dealing with the unacceptable gaps in equality which arise from an intrinsic disadvantage or often from the fall-out of the free market.

Indeed the importance of the charitable, the nonprofit and voluntary sectors appears to be Canada’s secret, a hidden truth as it were. Yet taken together, as a percentage of the population they are the second largest in the world. They are also a huge employer, with more than two million paid workers. That is almost as many Canadians as the entire manufacturing sector and two-and-a-half times the number of workers in the construction industry. They contribute almost eight per cent of Canada’s GDP — this is more than the retail industry, it is more than mining, oil and gas together.

They represent as well, in so many ways, the social conscience of the country. For all of these reasons let there be no doubt, without the work of Canada’s charities and non-profits we would be a much poorer society morally and economically. The need they fill will continue to grow and so must our support for them.

That being said however, I believe we have barely scratched the surface of what the full potential of the charitable sector in all its permutations and combinations is, and what it could mean to Canada’s evolving society. And that is what I want to talk to you about today. More specifically I want to talk to you about social enterprise; organizations that borrow from the objectives of traditional charities on the one hand and the management principles of the private sector on the other, including in certain cases the need to ensure growth by showing profits and the possibility of providing a financial return on investment.

“Social enterprises,” are like a business in that they trade goods and services and make money doing so. However, the latter is not their primary objective. It is a means to a greater end. Their major return on investment is calculated by their social or environmental return, based on a double and in the best of cases a triple bottom line. It is this emphasis on the deeper return that distinguishes them from the many corporations whose activities may include a social or environmental return but whose principal objective is profit.

Wherein lies the problem, you ask? It lies in the rules and regulations which govern the charitable sector. For example, simplifying its complexities somewhat, the Tax Act sets out rules for three categories of endeavor. First, taxpaying corporations and individuals. Second, non profits which do not pay taxes. And third, conventional charities which do not pay taxes and have the added benefit of being able to distribute charitable tax receipts to donors. These categories have played an important role in the growth of Canadian charitable giving. That being said however, there is now a problem with the historic boundaries they set out, in that they have not kept pace with the evolution of the social domain they seek to serve.

In broad terms, as we seek new ways of serving public needs, quite simply, the traditional limits are a barrier to innovation. More specifically in the case of social enterprise, they do not take into account its potential to attract new forms of capital that would not otherwise be available.
Let me give you two examples of what I mean.

Not long ago, I visited Eva’s Phoenix Print Shop, here in Toronto. It is not a big place, and, frankly, there is nothing about it that makes it stand out from any other small print shop except one thing. To get there, you walk through Eva’s Phoenix, a centre that people as young as sixteen call home. Many of them have suffered family breakdowns and physical or sexual abuse; many have addiction problems; some are young offenders. When they land at Eva’s Phoenix, they are desperate.

But once there, they are offered hope, shelter, and support. And the print shop gives even more: intensive on-the-job training in a field that needs workers. Once the young people have finished the training program, some are hired to work on site; others find jobs in other shops. Others still go on to college or university, most with a scholarship from Eva’s.

The problem is, as in so many cases, the print shop is now ready to expand its ability to help more young people but needs additional capital to do so. Under the current system, its only option is to boost its fundraising efforts. But a different model, one that permitted Eva’s Print Shop, to leverage its base by seeking investors to lend it money or even buy equity shares, would provide a much more sustainable way of raising the needed expansion funds and would still allow fundraised dollars to go to functions that are not part of its business model. In summary if such a system were in place, Eva’s could quickly be in a position to help many more young people, and realize its ambition to replicate its model in different cities across the country.
The second example is one of a different magnitude, in a different part of the country and with an entirely different focus from the Phoenix Print Shop. The Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia is the largest intact temperate rainforest left on Earth. Its territory contains more than 8 million hectares, that is one and a half times the size of Nova Scotia.

Last year, a landmark 120-million-dollar deal was struck to save the rainforest. Funding came from private philanthropists and from the provincial and federal governments. But the deal does not simply fence off this magnificent piece of land. The money raised will be spent on conservation management and in developing ecologically sustainable businesses run by Aboriginal Canadians. This project has an environmental objective, a social objective and a business objective. The architects of the Great Bear Rainforest project have designed a made-in Canada model of sustainability, that is worthy of — and has captured — international recognition and support.

The problem is, it is not easy to raise money for Great Bear businesses. First, they are not dissimilar to venture capital investments, yet, unlike venture capital, the investments are not likely to offer a high financial return especially since at the same time, there is the added need to develop a stable and qualified First Nation’s workforce.

The original intention had been to raise a complementary private sector fund to invest in the companies that would flow from the economic development package. Unfortunately while the overall project is a go, that aspect of the initiative, the social enterprise aspect that would create a multiplier effect in jobs has been put on hold – the reason being the tax and other incentives needed to bridge the risk reward gap are not there.

Now at this point in our discussion, some of you are probably saying to yourselves, ‘Wait a minute, this guy may make sense, but why is he lecturing us? He was the Minister of Finance and Prime Minister, why didn’t he act?’ And the answer is – I did but I did not go far enough.
As we cleaned up the national balance sheet we enhanced tax support for conventional charitable activities including the capital gains tax exemption and began to fund the social economy which I had been introduced to years earlier by Nancy Neamtam, one of its pioneers in Quebec. When I became Prime Minister we set aside a further 132 million dollars for the social economy and gave a leading Parliamentary Secretary, Eleni Bakopanos, the nod to push the envelope as far as she could.

What I missed however, was that there was still a major gap in the way government was responding to the real world evolution of the social economy, that of social enterprise in its fullest sense.

This I realized only after I left government and began seeking ways of fostering a sense of economic independence among Aboriginal Canadians. I felt and continue to believe that this can best be done by supporting and mentoring Aboriginal entrepreneurs, doing so through investments in companies which might provide only a below market return but a high social return- a social return which equated to furthering a culture of entrepreneurship and economic self-sufficiency. Most people I approached supported the concept enthusiastically but some had difficulty categorizing the nature of the proposal. They would say, if it is investment, why is the return below market, or if it is charity, where is the charitable tax deduction: to which the only thing I could respond was it is a hybrid with which the policy makers have not yet caught up.
The fundamental problem is that, in Canada, there is very clear division between charitable giving including non-profits on the one hand and private sector investment on the other and never, it would appear, should the twain meet.

If you want to create employment for people in difficult circumstances and you want to do it solely as a charity or a non profit - that works; non profit disability workshops are an example we are all familiar with. But if you want to raise money from investors to create those jobs and in so doing provide a return on investment, consisting of a high social return and a below market financial return, then in terms of tax incentives, you are out of luck.

Clearly the rigid line of demarcation between charitable giving and social enterprise operates to the detriment of Canada’s social goals, because it severely narrows the pool of capital from which social entrepreneurs can raise financing.

Why do I think this is important? It goes back to my opening statement. The market economy has demonstrated that there is more innovation and more economic growth coming from a system built on the initiatives of individual entrepreneurs than there is in any form of state capitalism.

We recognize that business entrepreneurs are those whose original ideas spark new trends, create new jobs and create the wealth we redistribute. They are those altogether too rare individuals with the drive, energy and passion that is needed to make the economy come alive.
Well, social entrepreneurs come from the same stock. They see problems and they dream about answers.

Like business entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs run on vision, energy and passion. Like business entrepreneurs, they come up with solutions that seem perfectly obvious – but only after they have been created.

I have tremendous respect for the public service but there is no way in heaven because of the structure of government, that a bureaucracy or any one else for that matter can match the obsession of someone with an original idea driven to make it happen.

What is the problem? The problem is business entrepreneurs can tap capital markets to support their ideas but social entrepreneurs in most cases cannot because their return on investment is primarily a social good. If they provide a financial return it is by definition secondary and in all likelihood below market. Otherwise they would be no different than conventional businesses.

So what is the answer? It is despite the current problems in capital markets, there is a financial liquidity out there that dwarfs the potential for funding to be found in government and while most of that money seeks quite naturally the highest return possible, a not insignificant percentage will target social goods, if the right incentives are provided. What we have to do, is to create those incentives. What we have to do, is make it possible for social entrepreneurs to tap capital markets the same way their business counterparts can do.

If more money was flowing to Eva’s Phoenix Print Shop, it could grow its business. It could buy new printing equipment which means it would employ more homeless young people, teach more of them a trade, and help them get off the streets. It would also create a pool of talent other print shops could employ, one currently not available. Clearly, that would be of benefit to all of us.

The same is true of Great Bear. If they were available today, incentives to offset lower financial returns and greater risk would help fund new business opportunities right now that could generate as much as 1,400 new jobs, most of them for Aboriginal Canadians.

And the same is true also of the Aboriginal issue that opened my eyes to social enterprise in its fullest sense. Economic growth may not be a sufficient condition for the elimination of Aboriginal poverty, but it certainly is a necessary condition. To that end if you are going to create an entrepreneurial class in an economy where one exists but barely, there is only one way to do it. That is to support the ambitions and the initiatives of those who seek to be entrepreneurs. That backing by definition cannot be charitable, but neither will it be the product of laissez-faire inertia. The status quo in most Aboriginal communities is proof of this. What is required is a leg up, a helping hand, all within the context of the free market.

The question is what should that leg up be? It is here, we begin to enter the area of greatest debate. Clearly an investment that provides a lower than market return but nonetheless a return, should receive a smaller incentive than a straight out gift to a charity.
But because that return is below market, in many cases it still requires an incentive and the question is – What should it be? The good news is we do not have to re-invent the wheel. There is considerable international experience in the field.

For instance unlike Canada, the U.S. now allows a foundation to make investments in social enterprises out of both its endowment funds and its grant making activities and earn income without affecting the foundation’s charitable status. These Program Related Investments – or PRIs- are permitted as long as the primary goal is a social return.

Nor is this the end of the PRI evolution in the U.S. The states of North Carolina and Vermont may be on the threshold of adopting a proposal by the Mannweiler Foundation to create social enterprise companies with PRI eligible characteristics but open to regular investors as well as foundations.

The US has also created, the New Market Tax Credit, which provides up to 15 billion dollars worth of credits for community investments over a 5 year period. These credits are available through competition and could easily be adapted to the concept we are discussing here.

In the UK, new legislation has created Community Interest Companies which, incidentally, are the first new form of business created there in more than 100 years. These “kicks” as they are called are organizations that conduct a business with the purpose of benefiting the community, rather than purely for private gain.

The development of the rules around CIC’s is an ongoing process. Certain tax incentives are provided and consideration is being given to the kinds of further incentives required to accelerate investment. That being said the new business model has proven very popular – it was introduced only two years ago, and already, more than 1,200 CICs have been created.

Having cited American and British examples, the real fact is – we do not have to look offshore to find models that would enable us to fund Canadian social entrepreneurs! We can look to the tax incentives that support Canadian business entrepreneurs.

For example: labour sponsored funds or the Canadian Film and Video Production Tax Credit Program, which offers federal incentives for Canadian productions.

Yet a third example would be flow-through shares that encourage investment in resource-based exploration.

The question I would put to you is quite simple – If we in Canada, are prepared to use these kinds of incentives to enable business entrepreneurs to tap capital markets for the betterment of the economy, why would we not provide similar incentives to social entrepreneurs as they seek to tap capital markets for the betterment of society.

In conclusion then, let me simply say the following. The generation of leaders who came into office in Canada at the end of the Second World War, was dramatically influenced and affected by the Great Depression. As a result they created the social safety net which we now take for granted, but which in their time took great imagination and vision. We must be no less innovative.

Charity has changed. Andrew Carnegie made his money, but waited to give it away until his final years. Today, philanthropists are much more active and much more involved during their lifetimes. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are far from their end, and they are giving away sums that were unheard of in the past, as are many wealthy Canadians.

And there are many more people, who may not have such enormous sums at hand, but who still have considerable disposable income or assets. There are also others of lesser or indeed of little wealth, but who want to make a difference and who want to do so during their lifetimes.

In short, there are many investors who would put their money into social enterprise, if the vehicles and incentives were there. What we need to do is to develop the right mix of risk and reward so that social enterprise becomes attractive to mainstream capital.

Financial experts ought to be developing new cutting edge instruments to make funding available to social entrepreneurs.

Tax experts ought to be thinking about mechanisms that can support social enterprise in a meaningful way.

Legislators should encourage an environment that allows foundations to become more imaginative in support of social enterprise.

And all the rest of us need to raise the profile of the issue and to push for change.

What we need in addition to conventional charitable giving is a new way to think about philanthropy and the achievement of social goals. We are at a point in our nation’s history where we can do this. All the elements are there. We have a history of progressive social policy. We have social entrepreneurs who are already running successful operations. We have a charitable and voluntary sector that is the second largest in the world.

We have had tremendous success in Canada in unleashing business to create wealth. We have learned that entrepreneurship is an unbeatable force. Government unleashed the power of business entrepreneurs when it provided them with the wherewithal to succeed – with needed public goods and functioning capital markets. What I would now ask, is that government unleash the power of social entrepreneurs as well by providing them with the wherewithal to succeed.
We must understand that the social entrepreneur is every bit as much a part of the free market as is the business entrepreneur.

The business entrepreneur improves our quality of life by creating wealth and economic growth. The social entrepreneur improves our quality of life by confronting the inequality that is often the collateral occurrence of free markets. Both kinds of entrepreneurs are necessary. Let us give them both the chance to succeed.

Thank you.

Fuente: Canadian Social Economy Hub

Digg this

viernes, 25 de enero de 2008

7,200 minutos

Cinco días han pasado desde que publiqué este blog. 120 horas han bastado para intoxicarme con feeds, widgets y pings. Solo 7,200 minutos fueron necesarios para convertirme en un nuevo y devoto apóstol del bloguismo.

Mutantur omnia nos et mutamur in illis

Digg this

lunes, 21 de enero de 2008

CEPAL - División de Desarrollo Social

(11 enero 2008) La Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL) y la Fundación W.K. Kellogg nuevamente buscan a innovadores sociales para que participen en la cuarta versión de su concurso anual Experiencias en innovación social. La fecha de cierre para postular es el 25 de enero, 2008.

Se buscan iniciativas con verdadero impacto social en las vidas de los más desprotegidos, modelos sostenibles y fáciles de replicar, donde exista participación de los beneficiarios. Estas son consideradas herramientas claves para la superación de la pobreza, la desigualdad y la exclusión social.

El concurso recoge las experiencias novedosas en ocho áreas: salud comunitaria, educación básica, programas de juventud, generación de ingresos, responsabilidad social corporativa, voluntariado, desarrollo rural/agrícola y seguridad alimentaria/ nutrición.

Gobiernos regionales, departamentales, provinciales y municipales, asociaciones comunitarias, comunidades religiosas, organizaciones no gubernamentales, y otras instituciones del sector privado sin fines de lucro pueden participar. Las empresas privadas pueden participar en la categoría de responsabilidad social corporativa.

Los proyectos participantes deben tener al menos dos años de trabajo efectivo, estar vigentes y desarrollarse en alguno de los 33 países de América Latina y el Caribe miembros de la CEPAL. Las iniciativas presentadas a alguno de los ciclos anteriores del certamen pueden volver a postular.

Los formularios para la postulación están disponibles en el sitio web de la CEPAL, (http://www.cepal.org/), y en el sitio web de la oficina regional para América Latina y el Caribe de la Fundación Kellogg (http://www.wkkf-lac.org/). También se puede solicitar a: innovacion.social@cepal.org

Los premios que podrán obtener son de $30,000 dólares (primer lugar); $20,000 dólares (segundo lugar); $15,000 dólares (tercer lugar); $10,000 dólares (cuarto lugar); y $5,000 dólares (quinto lugar).

Para obtener mayor información haga click aquí.

Digg this

sábado, 19 de enero de 2008

Lecciones desde la India

Comparto con ustedes un artículo escrito en marzo de 2006 sobre algunas de mis impresiones sobre India (versión editada). Aprovecho este espacio para agradecer al Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, ITEC y la Embajada de la India en el Perú por darme la oportunidad de visitar su maravilloso país.
Nota: Se evita el uso de comillas en los diálogos para evitar problemas de publicación mediante los feeds. En futuros artículos éstas seguirán siendo reemplazadas por guiones.

El Ashram Express está próximo a partir desde Nueva Delhi hacia Jaipur y a pesar de ser invierno en la India el día presenta cielos despejados y una temperatura que supera los 30ºC. Después de varios intentos finalmente consigo acomodar mi maleta debajo del asiento al mismo tiempo que ingresa a la cabina mi eventual compañero de viaje. Por su cabello blanco-platinado y los profundos surcos en el rostro deduzco que se trata de un hombre maduro; su sencillo saco café y la maleta Samsonite que lleva consigo también me indican - con absoluta claridad - que este hombre es uno de los 300 millones de ciudadanos indios de pujante y creciente clase media. Intercambiamos un sencillo namaste – saludo protocolar en hindi, el idioma nacional más difundido entre las 18 lenguas oficiales – mientras nos despedimos de la capital de la India.

Nueva Delhi es una ciudad incompatible con la buena calidad de vida. Sin embargo, durante mis escasos tres días de visita, jamás dejé de sorprenderme por sus contrastes extremos. Poblada por más de 13 millones de habitantes y afectada por niveles de pobreza y contaminación alarmantes, Nueva Delhi es también punto de encuentro de diversas etnias, religiones y culturas que la convierten en un destino exótico e incomparable. Nueva Delhi es el fiel reflejo de la India, una megápolis en donde los conceptos de inmensidad, dinamismo y complejidad que caracterizan al país se expresan a plenitud. Desde aquí se rigen los destinos de más de un billón de personas y se planifican e implementan las políticas públicas que han colocado a este gigante asiático entre las seis economías emergentes de mayor crecimiento durante los últimos ocho años a nivel mundial.

Ya ha pasado media hora desde que partimos del Old Dehli Railway Station y mi compañero de viaje no resiste la curiosidad. En un inglés tosco pero perfecto, legado del colonialismo británico, se presenta: -Me llamo Ashutosh Kumar, gusto en conocerlo-. El breve intercambio inicial de palabras rompe el hielo y confirma la auténtica hospitalidad de los indios con los forasteros. Después de las clásicas preguntas y respuestas de cualquier conversación introductoria, Shri (Señor) Kumar y yo ganamos confianza y entramos de lleno en materias más interesantes.

Le pregunto sobre la situación económica del país; -verá usted, desde las reformas económicas implementadas en 1991 por nuestro actual primer ministro, Shri Manmohan Singh, Hindustan ha experimentado un crecimiento promedio anual superior al 6%. Para este año esperamos crecer sobre 8% y debo confesarle que estas cifras nos llenan de optimismo-. En efecto, la tercera mayor economía de Asia – sólo superada en tamaño por Japón y China - emprendió un agresivo programa de liberalización económica con el fin de revertir el severo déficit fiscal y la enorme deuda externa acumulada durante más de cuatro décadas de pasmoso e ineficiente control estatal. Si bien los niveles de corrupción, burocracia y cleptocracia siguen siendo elevados, el mayor flujo de inversión extranjera y políticas fiscales más responsables han permitido mejorar los indicadores sociales, particularmente la disminución del analfabetismo, la mortalidad infantil y la pobreza extrema.

Un elemento clave para explicar este progreso sostenido se basa en el vasto capital intelectual que posee la India; la cuna del sistema numérico, el cálculo y el ajedrez, cuenta con ventajas competitivas decisivas que suponen el conocimiento, la creatividad y la innovación. Los indios se han consolidado como líderes mundiales en industrias tales como las tecnologías de información (IT), la biotecnología y el sector farmacéutico; por eso, ya a nadie sorprende descubrir que reconocidas empresas como Ranbaxy, Infosis o Wipro inundan los mercados globales con productos de bajo precio y excelente calidad. Frente a este fenómeno, hasta los imperturbables alemanes murmuran -Kinder statt inder!-; ¡eduquemos a nuestros niños en vez de traer indios!.

El capital intelectual de los indios no se restringe a personas de clase media y alta; este valioso activo intangible es también el patrimonio de millones de ciudadanos menos privilegiados que con mucho esfuerzo y visión de largo plazo continúan estableciendo pequeñas y medianas empresas en todo el país. A la fecha, la India cuenta con más de 12 millones de PYMES que en 2006 generaron, por concepto de exportaciones, más de US$21 billones. Que duda cabe, los indios están redefiniendo el término de valor agregado.

Obviamente a Shri Kumar le fascina hablar de su querida Hindustan y nuestra entretenida conversación ha superado ya el par de horas. El desértico estado de Rajastan – la Tierra del Rey – nos da la bienvenida y ambos sentimos aún mayor libertad para discutir temas más sensibles; el sistema de castas, la religión y la gastronomía garantizan un fértil monólogo que gustosamente me dispongo a escuchar. Le pregunto a que casta pertenece; -soy Kshatriya responde amablemente, ¡por eso tengo brazos fuertes!-, comentario que por cierto me deja bastante confundido.

Para occidente, el sistema de castas íntimamente ligado al hinduismo - religión profesada por el 83% de la población - plantea complicadas interrogantes. La milenaria estructura social india, herencia de los Arios desde el año 500 A.C., establece cuatro castas o varnas clasificados según el karma de sus integrantes. La primera casta la componen los Brahmins, reconocidos por los demás miembros de su comunidad como los líderes religiosos y maestros de la sociedad. Sus privilegiados miembros rigen la cabeza y son responsables de educar y guiar espiritualmente al resto de la sociedad. Shri Kumar pertenece a la casta de los guerreros y nobles, los Kshatriyas, encargados de brindar protección y seguridad. Ahora comprenderá el orgullo de mi eventual compañero de viaje.

El mozo del tren interrumpe brevemente nuestro diálogo para ofrecernos la merienda. Ordeno un chai (té) y Butter Roti (tortilla de harina con mantequilla) mientras que Shri Kumar se decide por un apetitoso Paneer Masala (queso licuado y sazonado con varias especias). Una vez lista y dispuesta la mesa continuamos. Los Vaishyas componen la tercera casta de comerciantes y mercaderes, regentes del estómago, encargados de proporcionar los alimentos. La última casta, los Shudras, cumple con servir a las castas superiores. Aquí encontramos a los agricultores, artesanos y trabajadores quienes rigen las pantorrillas. La - quinta casta -, los dalits o intocables, conforma el nivel social inferior y sus miembros reflejan los niveles de pobreza extrema más grotescos. Su intocabilidad es de facto; los dalits no son tocados ni tocan – siquiera con su sombra – a los miembros de otras castas porque son considerados elementos contaminantes.

Es difícil tolerar la aparente discriminación impuesta por el milenario sistema de castas pero existen arraigados antecedentes religiosos y culturales que la sustentan. En breve, resalto la palabra aparente, los hinduistas creen en la reencarnación y consideran que su vida presente es consecuencia directa de actos cometidos en vidas anteriores. Por esta razón aceptan su destino sin reproches; los dalits intentarán subsistir decentemente en la pobreza extrema mientras que los brahmins se orientarán hacia una vida ejemplar, todos ellos con el fin de reencarnarse en una vida superior. Asimismo, el sistema social existente impone también severas restricciones de género, mucho más evidentes en los sectores rurales del país, que conforman el 70% de la población total.

A pesar de esta impactante realidad Shri Kumar se apura en aclarar: -el gobierno ha creado leyes e implementado programas de compensación para las mujeres y los más pobres pero el verdadero cambio social proviene de nuestras nuevas generaciones-. Le pido mayores detalles; - por ejemplo, las universidades públicas establecen cuotas de ingreso de 10% exclusivamente para los dalits, mientras que el estado garantiza un 30% de sus puestos laborales para las mujeres-. A pesar de su sereno fraseo, el rostro de mi amigo refleja cierta resignación al finalizar su comentario y yo no puedo evitar reflexionar lo siguiente; superar las enormes brechas impuestas por el sistema de castas le tomará a la India varias décadas pero es evidente que sus ciudadanos nominales y reales, especialmente los más jóvenes, han comprendido que el siglo XXI demandará nuevos códigos y formas de interacción humana.

Estamos a escasos minutos de nuestro destino final y mi mente empieza a enfocarse en las actividades que llevaré a cabo en Jaipur, Jodhpur, Mumbai y Ahmedabad; visitas a PYMES, entrevistas con exitosos microempresarios y las simples caminatas por urbes congestionadas me garantizan inolvidables lecciones personales. Lamentablemente nuestra conversación va llegando a su fin y quedan en el aire múltiples temas pendientes tales como la minoría musulmán de 120 millones de personas, el conflicto en Cachemira, la industria aeroespacial y nuclear, Bollywood y los dabbawallas por mencionar unos cuantos. ¡Que lástima!.

El tren se ha detenido completamente y llega el momento para despedirnos. Tanto Shri Kumar como yo no podemos evitar la tristeza del momento pero agradecemos profundamente la oportunidad de habernos conocido. -Espero que siga disfrutando de su estadía y le deseo muchos éxitos- me dice para luego perderse rápidamente en el caótico tumulto de la estación. Y así concluyo, en medio de una desbordante marea humana, que la India no acepta términos medios; maravillándonos con sus fortalezas y tolerando sus debilidades, los que tenemos el privilegio de visitarla, aprendemos también a respetarla, quererla y admirarla. Con certeza, este maravilloso país dejará marcas imborrables en mi vida. Jaya hai Hindustan!

Digg this

Just Good Business

Jan 17th 2008
From The Economist print edition

Corporate social responsibility, once a do-gooding sideshow, is now seen as mainstream. But as yet too few companies are doing it well, says Daniel Franklin (interviewed here)

Illustration by Ian Whadcock

Corporate social responsibility, once a do-gooding sideshow, is now seen as mainstream. But as yet too few companies are doing it well, says Daniel Franklin (interviewed here)

IN THE lobby at the London headquarters of Marks & Spencer, one of Britain's leading retailers, the words scroll relentlessly across a giant electronic ticker. They describe progress against “Plan A”, a set of 100 worthy targets over five years. The company will help to give 15,000 children in Uganda a better education; it is saving 55,000 tonnes of CO2 in a year; it has recycled 48m clothes hangers; it is tripling sales of organic food; it aims to convert over 20m garments to Fairtrade cotton; every store has a dedicated “Plan A” champion.

The M&S ticker says a lot about the current state of what is commonly known as corporate social responsibility (CSR). First, nobody much likes the CSR label. A year ago M&S launched not a CSR plan but Plan A (“because there is no Plan B”). The chief executive's committee that monitors this plan is called the “How We Do Business Committee”. Other companies prefer to describe this kind of thing as “corporate responsibility” (dropping the “social” as too narrow), or “corporate citizenship”, or “building a sustainable business”. One Nordic executive glories in the job title of director, accountability and triple-bottom-line leadership. All this is convoluted code for something simple: companies meaning (or seeming) to be good.

Second, the scrolling list shows what a vast range of activities now comes under the doing-good umbrella. It spans everything from volunteering in the local community to looking after employees properly, from helping the poor to saving the planet. With such a fuzzy, wide-ranging subject, many companies find it hard to know what to focus on.

Third, the M&S ticker demonstrates that CSR is booming. Whether through electronic screens, posters or glossy reports, big companies want to tell the world about their good citizenship. They are pushing out the message on their websites and in advertising campaigns. Their chief executives queue up to speak at conferences to explain their passion for the community or their new-found commitment to making their company carbon-neutral. A survey carried out for this report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a sister company of The Economist, shows corporate responsibility rising sharply in global executives' priorities (see chart 1).

None of this means that CSR has suddenly become a great idea. This newspaper has argued that it is often misguided, or worse. But in practice few big companies can now afford to ignore it.

Beyond the corporate world, CSR is providing fertile ground for think-tanks and consultancies. Governments are taking an ever keener interest: in Britain, for example, the 2006 Companies Act introduced a requirement for public companies to report on social and environmental matters. And the United Nations promotes corporate responsibility around the world through a New York-based group called the Global Compact.

Business schools, for their part, are adding courses and specialised departments to keep their MBA students happy. “Demand for CSR activities has just soared in the past three years,” says Thomas Cooley, the dean of New York University's Stern Business School. Bookshelves groan with titles such as “Corporation Be Good”, “Beyond Good Company” and “The A to Z of Corporate Responsibility”.

Why the boom? For a number of reasons, companies are having to work harder to protect their reputation—and, by extension, the environment in which they do business. Scandals at Enron, WorldCom and elsewhere undermined trust in big business and led to heavy-handed government regulation. An ever-expanding army of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) stands ready to do battle with multinational companies at the slightest sign of misbehaviour. Myriad rankings and ratings put pressure on companies to report on their non-financial performance as well as on their financial results. And, more than ever, companies are being watched. Embarrassing news anywhere in the world—a child working on a piece of clothing with your company's brand on it, say—can be captured on camera and published everywhere in an instant, thanks to the internet.

Now comes concern over climate change, probably the biggest single driver of growth in the CSR industry of late. The great green awakening is making company after company take a serious look at its own impact on the environment. It is no surprise, therefore, that 95% of CEOs surveyed last year by McKinsey, a consultancy, said that society now has higher expectations of business taking on public responsibilities than it did five years ago.

Investors too are starting to show more interest. For example, $1 out of every $9 under professional management in America now involves an element of “socially responsible investment”, according to Geoffrey Heal of Columbia Business School. Some of the big banks, including Goldman Sachs and UBS, have started to integrate environmental, social and governance issues in some of their equity research. True, the finance industry sends mixed signals: it demands good financial results above all else, and in parts of the financial world—notably the private-equity part—scepticism on CSR still runs deep. But private equity itself is having to respond to public pressure by agreeing to voluntary codes of transparency.

As well as these external pressures, firms are also facing strong demand for CSR from their employees, so much so that it has become a serious part of the competition for talent. Ask almost any large company about the business rationale for its CSR efforts and you will be told that they help to motivate, attract and retain staff. “People want to work at a company where they share the values and the ethos,” says Mike Kelly, head of CSR at the European arm of KPMG, an accounting firm.

Too much of a good thing?

Since there is so much CSR about, you might think big companies would by now be getting rather good at it. A few are, but most are struggling.

CSR is now made up of three broad layers, one on top of the other. The most basic is traditional corporate philanthropy. Companies typically allocate about 1% of pre-tax profits to worthy causes because giving something back to the community seems “the right thing to do”. But many companies now feel that arm's-length philanthropy—simply writing cheques to charities—is no longer enough. Shareholders want to know that their money is being put to good use, and employees want to be actively involved in good works.

Money alone is not the answer when companies come under attack for their behaviour. Hence the second layer of CSR, which is a branch of risk management. Starting in the 1980s, with environmental disasters such as the explosion at the Bhopal pesticide factory and the Exxon Valdez oil spill, industry after industry has suffered blows to its reputation. Big pharma was hit by its refusal to make antiretroviral drugs available cheaply for HIV/AIDS sufferers in developing countries. In the clothing industry, companies like Nike and Gap came under attack for use of child labour. Food companies face a backlash over growing obesity. And “Don't be evil” as a corporate motto offers no immunity: Google was one of several American technology titans hauled before Congress to be grilled about their behaviour in China.

So, often belatedly, companies respond by trying to manage the risks. They talk to NGOs and to governments, create codes of conduct and commit themselves to more transparency in their operations. Increasingly, too, they get together with their competitors in the same industry in an effort to set common rules, spread the risk and shape opinion.

All this is largely defensive, but companies like to stress that there are also opportunities to be had for those that get ahead of the game. The emphasis on opportunity is the third and trendiest layer of CSR: the idea that it can help to create value. In December 2006 the Harvard Business Review published a paper by Michael Porter and Mark Kramer on how, if approached in a strategic way, CSR could become part of a company's competitive advantage.

That is just the sort of thing chief executives like to hear. “Doing well by doing good” has become a fashionable mantra. Businesses have eagerly adopted the jargon of “embedding” CSR in the core of their operations, making it “part of the corporate DNA” so that it influences decisions across the company.

With a few interesting exceptions, the rhetoric falls well short of the reality. “It doesn't go very deep yet,” says Bradley Googins, executive director of the Boston College Centre for Corporate Citizenship. His centre's latest survey on the state of play in America is called “Time to Get Real”.

There is, to be fair, some evidence that companies' efforts are moving in a more strategic direction. The Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, a New York-based business association, reports that the share of corporate giving with a “strategic” motivation jumped from 38% in 2004 to 48% in 2006. But too often corporate strategy is not properly joined up. In the car industry, Toyota has led the way in championing green, responsible motoring with its Prius hybrid model, but it has lobbied with others in the industry against a tough fuel-economy standard in America. Surveys point to a big gap between companies' aspirations and their actions (see chart 2). And even corporate aspirations in the rich world lag far behind how much the public expects business to contribute to society.

According to Mr Porter, despite a surge of interest in CSR, in most cases it remains “too unfocused, too shotgun, too many supporting someone's pet project with no real connection to the business”. Dutch Leonard, like Mr Porter at Harvard Business School, describes the value-building type of CSR as “an act of faith, almost a fantasy. There are very few examples.”

Perhaps that is not surprising. The business of trying to be good is confronting executives with difficult questions. Can you measure CSR performance? Should you be co-operating with NGOs, and with your competitors? Is there really competitive advantage to be had from a green strategy? How will the rise of companies from China, India and other emerging markets change the game?

This special report will look in detail at how companies are implementing CSR. It will conclude that, done badly, it is often just a figleaf and can be positively harmful. Done well, though, it is not some separate activity that companies do on the side, a corner of corporate life reserved for virtue: it is just good business.

Digg this

miércoles, 16 de enero de 2008

Bienvenidos / Welcome

Bienvenidos a Innovación Social, blog dedicado a diseminar y aportar ideas sobre innovación, estrategia, emprendedores y organizaciones orientadas hacia la creación de valor público.

Digg this