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Davos Sound Byte-1

By Matthieu Ricard on February 01, 2010

I attended the recent Davos World Economic Forum as a speaker and was inspired by the voices that called for a greater sense of values and altruism in the world. In the session ‟Rethinking Values in the Post-Crisis World,” Mohammad Yunus, the Nobel Laureate who created the system of micro-credit to help people free themselves from poverty, said in essence that we do not have to change the way business is done, we simply need to change its goals. There is selfish business, the purpose of which is just profit. It reduces humanity to a single dimension, money, and thus ignores our humanity. Then there is selfless business, the goal of which is primarily to serve society. This is also known as social business. Charity is a one-time giving that can be very helpful, but does not have sustainable effects.

Social business can help society in a sustainable way. It is viable and can be as profitable as selfish business, but the direct beneficiary is society. You may, for instance, start a business for the very purpose of creating one hundred jobs, or to provide cheap and clean water to many communities. These are your direct goals, not making money just for the sake of it. If you succeed in creating these jobs or in providing the needed water, this is your indicator of success, and this number makes up your balance sheet at the end of the year.

Today, most of technology is put at the service of selfish business. But the same technology could be used for selfless business. We could also create a social business stock market, functioning like any other stock exchange, which would give people the choice to invest in selfless economy. The goal is not to replace or compete with the traditional economy, but to provide an alternative, so that selfless economy can have an opportunity do more good in this world.