Creative capitalism business models

In the call for 'beyond capitalism' businesses Bill Gates in a January 2008 speech at the World Economic Forum called for creative capitalism

"an approach where governments, businesses, and nonprofits work together to stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or gain recognition, doing work that eases the world's inequities."

Going down this route has significant implications the businesses and for the organization designers supporting this level of change to the business model.

It means shifting from an over-arching purpose of 'making the numbers' to a an organizational purpose around social, moral, and environmental principles (many of them outlined in Adam Werbach's book Strategy for Sustainability).

The question is: "Is it feasible, or possible for existing businesses to make such a fundamental shift?" To answer: It's very unlikely as all aspects of an existing for profit, publicly owned companies are set up to maximize shareholder valuing and this is enforced through a variety of mechanisms – legal, regulatory, and so on.

However, a way to do this is for businesses either to establish parallel businesses set up on a new model – Grameen Danone is a much quoted example designed to support a dual model of for-profit and social/environmental purpose.

There are good examples of organizations that were established with the dual purpose framing the business model. Many are co-operatives for example, Amul an Indian milk farming co-operative and Organic Valley (a US farmer owned co-operative), other models are those of Triodos Bank or the John Lewis Partnership.

Trying to graft a new business model onto an existing one, or change an existing one to a different one is not a task for the faint hearted.

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