The United Nations commissioned the Millennium Project in 2002 to develop a concrete action plan that would reverse the grinding poverty, hunger and disease affecting billions of people worldwide. The largest gathering of world leaders in history committed their nations to a new global partnership to reduce poverty, improve health, and promote peace, human rights, gender equality and environmental sustainability.
In brief the Millennium Development Goals are:
eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
achieve universal primary education
promote gender equality and empower women
reduce child mortality
improve maternal health
combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
ensure environmental sustainability
global partnership for development.
Read more about the UN's Millennium Development Goals
Australian companies contributing
Business for Millennium Development (B4MD) is an independent Australian based not-for-profit organisation established by World Vision in 2007. They encourage and facilitate business activities that contribute to the Millennium Development Goals. Their members and clients represent many of Australia's and the world's largest companies including BHP Billiton, Kraft Foods, Agility, IBM, Nestle, Oil Search, Telstra and Visy.
B4MD's Chief Executive Officer Mark Ingram encourages progressive businesses to get involved, "With the world behind schedule to implement the Millennium Development Goals, it is critical that all sectors of society respond to the UN's call to accelerate progress. The private sector is the engine of economic growth and needs to be actively participating." In terms of B4MD's involvement in the process and their relationship with business, Mark continues, "We help our members build commercially viable, scalable business enterprises focused on poverty reduction."
B4MD encourages and facilitates sustainable "inclusive business models" that expand access to goods, services and livelihood opportunities for low-income communities. They build bridges between business and the poor. Inclusive business ventures go beyond immediate profits and higher incomes. For business, they include driving innovations, building markets and strengthening supply chains. For low-income communities, they include higher productivity, greater empowerment, and sustainable earnings and livelihoods.
Inclusive business is not corporate philanthropy; it produces mutual benefit. It is the search for sustainable business models that "do well by doing good" and can become part of the mainstream business because they deliver benefits all round.
Leading from the front
B4MD raises awareness and provides market insights for industry leaders on inclusive business opportunities in developing countries through events, workshops, sharing best practice and evidence based research. The organisation also connects Australian and multinational corporate clients and members with individuals and groups in developing communities in order to generate innovative commercial opportunities that reduce poverty. As part of this work, B4MD's specialised team leads a range of Business Missions to locations across the Asia Pacific region. Locations and projects are selected based on their readiness to collaborate on new business initiatives targeting poverty alleviation. These trips connect Australian corporate clients with individuals, communities, government contacts and NGOs to foster innovative inclusive business opportunities.
A "real life" Inclusive Business model
Mondelez (formerly Kraft Foods) is the world's largest chocolate company. On its own initiative, Mondelez will invest $400 million over the next ten years to improve the livelihoods and living conditions of more than 200,000 cocoa farmers and about one million people in their communities. With an interest in the region, Mondelez partnered with B4MD to develop links into Papua New Guinea.
B4MD helped Mondelez identify how local producers could be connected into an ethical, locally beneficial supply solution. As part of this process, B4MD and Mondelez considered how the establishment of a cocoa supply chain could empower cocoa farming families to achieve sustainable livelihoods. Central to this engagement with Mondelez, B4MD undertook detailed analysis in PNG focused on:
Connections to consistent buyers and global markets
Training that would deliver a tangible financial improvement
A consistent price regime linked to global markets
Access to tools, seedlings and other critical farm inputs at cost relevant prices.
The flow on effects to local communities will be immeasurable such as the rolling out of social programs including education and health infrastructure, in consultation with village members.
Saward Dawson and B4MD
Not-for-profit organisations, while unique from the for-profit business community by their very nature, continue to operate in a complex world of compliance and bureaucracy and are often impacted by both local and worldwide political elements outside of their control. However every organisation, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, shares a fundamental element of financial sustainability - that is, cash flow. Without adequate cash flow, an organisation is starved of its ability to reach its optimal potential or to simply survive. Such an important factor should be treated with respect and planned for appropriately before making key management decisions that could impact the success or failure of an organisation. Saward Dawson has been working with B4MD since 2011 with a key focus on monthly cash flow forecasting, monitoring and decision making. This has proven to be a very successful process enabling a transparent and supportive reporting framework between the Board and management ensuring a clear vision and path of attainment.
The challenges are great and require worldwide action and leadership. Regional action and targeting requires dedicated organisations such as B4MD encouraging and facilitating business, and creating connections to developing opportunities. Mark Ingram says, "We are the only organisation of this kind in Australia. We were formed by business for business. Australian businesses have the opportunity to utilise their core competencies to do business with the poor in the emerging markets, changing lives for generations to come." Visit their website at www.b4md.com.au.