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Doing good and doing business: Shared goals
Q: My dad has pancreatic cancer, and I plan on creating a charity through which I can help people like him. But if I separate money-making activities from charitable ones, is my effort likely to succeed?
Joseph Wanjohi, Kenya
I’m sorry to hear about your dad’s illness. It is always good to hear from entrepreneurs like you, who are just as interested in working on important social problems as they are in making money. For me, these are such challenging and exciting goals and projects.
Well done for taking on such an important issue! Traditionally, business and charity—and their purposes—have been thought to be mutually exclusive, but that divide is starting to dissolve. Take, for example, the rise of B Corporations in the United States. The B stands for “benefit”: these businesses are not in the game just to make a profit; they are independently certified by the nonprofit B Lab “to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.” So far, B Lab says, it has certified 910 companies from 29 countries and 60 industries.
Whether you decide to keep your business activities separate from your non-profit efforts, or to embed your charitable goals into the structure of your business, your venture can be successful. The key seems to be to find a business model that achieves your goals in a simple and practical way, and then focus on delivering well. Here are a couple of examples to inspire you: