An Innovative Business
Is it possible to have a profitable and missional business that creates jobs for the poor in an emerging economy using sustainable local materials to produce well-designed products for environmentally aware customers in the West?
This is the story of a mid-career Western business executive, who quit his job and headed for a developing country with a commitment to serve the poor through entrepreneurship.
Rooted In Land & Culture
Upon studying the land and its people, he was inspired to take their ancient indigenous skills and locally available, eco-sustainable raw materials to produce handcrafted innovative applications in the storage industry. The business currently employs close to 200 workers with potential to reach 1,000 as they develop new products for new markets.
Lifting The Local Community
Due to soil conditions in the region, farmers could only raise one crop per year instead of the two to three elsewhere in the country. So many people were held in chronic poverty, making them vulnerable to human traffickers and sex traders. Employed by this company, many subsistence farmers have become skilled workers. They can now work to provide food and shelter for their families.
Stewarding Local Resources
As a business with strong ethical credentials, the company strives for excellence in every aspect of their operation. The containers are made with locally sourced sustainable materials instead of unsustainable timbers. These materials grow well on poor quality land otherwise useless because it is unsuitable for food production.
The company has perfected techniques for cultivating the plants from which these materials are sourced. They also use natural dyes from plant extracts for their products.
Moreover, thoughtful designs help maximize materials
usage and reduce waste. Effective packing of the products further minimizes wasted space in containers and the carbon footprint of the products.
Caring For Workers
Around 30% of the workers are women, most of them unschooled. But they receive a salary well above the average for the country. The factory is built with good natural light and ventilation to ensure health and safety. Workers get pension, paid holidays, sick leave and a lump-sum payment when they leave.
Free medical care is available even during work hours. An independent workers’ association meets regularly and communicates their concerns to the management.
Sharing Good News Through Business
In all these ways, the business has cultivated an ethos that exemplifies God’s love for people, especially the poor and the needy. It demonstrates a faith-based approach to wealth creation that protects and promotes life, health, and human dignity.
One testimony summarizes the stories of many workers: “Before joining the company, I went through very hard times. Now I have a stable income, and I am able to send my children to school. Every month I am saving some money in the bank. Now my husband and I can plan for our future together.”
Taking Time To Harvest
The Quadruple Bottom Line of Business as Mission (BAM) aims at holistic witness to the Gospel that brings about economic, social, environmental and spiritual transformation to bless the unreached.
People need to see the Gospel before they are ready to give it a hearing. A seasoned BAM trainer has observed that in many Muslim countries it takes about three years of observation before a Muslim employee would ask his Christian boss the first question about his faith. And it could be another four years before the first decision to follow Christ is made. Business provides the context for daily contact with people. Over time, the Gospel comes alive in practical ways under
the close scrutiny of the unreached community.
Business is hard work. In developing countries resistant to the Gospel, BAM is even harder. It takes great perseverance to remove rocks, sand, and toxic substances before the soil could be ready for sowing. There is no short cut to harvest.