Saving the world with a cup of yogurt

Posted on February 21, 2007

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Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, the father of microcredit, has a new idea. It’s called social business enterprise, and the first step is a yogurt factory in Bangladesh. Fortune’s Sheridan Prasso reports.

By Sheridan Prasso, Fortune


(Fortune Magazine) — Along a dirt road in Bangladesh’s green, fertile heartland, 140 miles northwest of Dhaka, workers in flip-flops are hauling bricks, pouring cement and hammering boards. The object of their labor: a small yogurt factory being built by Danone, the French food company, on the outskirts of Bogra.

It may not look like much, but the one-story building behind a wrought-iron gate is the epicenter of a Big New Idea – one that Muhammad Yunus, the winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize for his pioneering work on microcredit, thinks can revolutionize a world still being transformed by his first big idea.

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“I hope it will be an important landmark in the annals of business,” Yunus says a few days later in Dhaka, at the opening ceremony for the factory in early November. “The concept it represents is very powerful.”

That concept is called “social business enterprise.” It may not be as concise or as self-evidently defining a term as microcredit, but Yunus believes it represents the evolution of his old idea in a new direction. Yunus’s first idea started with lending $27 out of his own pocket and a belief that the poor, particularly poor women, could be empowered as entrepreneurs if only they had the means to start their own small businesses. [more]

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