Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Poverty: What Can A Business Do?

In honor of Blog Action Day, today we look at how businesses (and individuals) can increase social impact through a focus on the reduction and elimination of poverty.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2007, 37.3 million people in the U.S. lived in poverty. According to UNICEF, 26,500-30,000 children around the world die each day due to poverty. Half the world — nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day.

So what are some things you or your business can do?

  1. Read Joining the Fight Against Global Poverty: A Menu for Corporate Engagement. This report from the Center for Global Development was created from interviews with 15 corporations. It offers 6 approaches being used by the corporations to combat poverty, and offers anecdotes from their experiences. "One of the guiding principles of the report is that companies bring much more to the table than money. Financial resources are often necessary, but corporations' skills, ideas, and ways of operating in the marketplace can make a much greater contribution."

  2. Check out the Blog Action Day 2008 resources page for links to organizations and other efforts working to reduce global poverty.

  3. Support microcredit - both Kiva and MicroPlace generate peer-to-peer microloans for entrepreneurs in emerging economies. Through April 2009, Think MTV is offering you a free $25 loan gift certificate so you can start giving and help in the fight against global poverty.

  4. Educate yourself - read what other businesses are doing and find ideas that your business can implement. For example, Sustainable Business Design's weekly Sustainable & Responsible Business of the Week feature often highlights many wonderful things businesses are doing to fight poverty at home and in emerging countries. We have covered the initiatives of LJUrban, Thanksgiving Coffee, Babajob, FEED Project, White Dog Cafe, TOMS Shoes, Husk Power Systems, Greyston Bakery, Zambezi Organic Forest Honey, Boutique Mix, Higher Grounds Trading Company, Grameen America, and many others, each making their own unique contribution in the fight against poverty.

  5. Base of the pyramid strategies (BOP) are business strategies that specifically seek to conduct business in emerging countries while simultaneously pursuing triple bottom line objectives (social, environmental, and economic). The specific social impact sought through BOP strategies is the alleviation of poverty. Consider ways your company can engage with the BOP and support companies that are currently engaged in the BOP.

  6. Support Fair Trade - seek out opportunities to purchase Fair Trade products for you or your business. Fair Trade products ensure that those who produced the product in developing countries were paid a fair wage under humane working conditions. You can purchase Fair Trade clothing, handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, flowers, and other products.

  7. Ther are many ways you can help for free - instead of spending those spare minutes playing solitaire or chatting online, visit,,,,,, or Each of these sites offers a free way you can help, just by playing or clicking.

  8. Check out the ONE campaign website to see where your U.S. presidential candidate stands on reducing extreme poverty and global disease.

  9. And if you have any doubts about your ability to help alleviate poverty, just visit The Global Rich List to see how fortunate you are and to see how many others could use your help.

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