Small is beautiful (E.F. Schumacher, 1973)

“ To create a world full of giving” is the mission of Japanese serial entrepreneur Masami Sato. After attending college in Japan she traveled the world and was disturbed by the poverty and inequality she discovered. Eventually, she ended up in New Zealand wherein 2001, with little capital, she opened a takeaway food business and started a family at the same time. In 2003, after successfully selling her now two businesses she moved to Australia and launched a health food brand. Although this grew and met her objective of introducing healthy eating options to busy working people, she found she never had the time or the resources to do what she really wanted to do, namely help those less fortunate than herself. In 2007 all that changed when she met British entrepreneur and business mentor, Paul Dunne, and they came up with the idea of B1G1 (Buy 1 Give1). This was, and is, a very simple concept. Instead of waiting until firms have enough time and money to launch a grand, large-scale philanthropic venture, they start small. In Masami’s case, this meant that for every meal she sold she would give one away to the poor and hungry. This made her realize what she calls “the power of small” and the fact that “we don’t need to do big things immediately, we can start small then small things can be done right away and every day”.

Masami sold her Australian food business in 2007 and moved to Singapore where she registered B1G1 as a social enterprise. By 2017, it had become a certified B Corporation and a global enterprise and in 2021 supports over 500 high impact projects around the world and ensures that 100 percent of the giving of its 2976 business members is passed on to the project(s) the member has elected to support. The projects are in 8 categories and in total, some 247,251,476 giving impacts have been made as follows:

  • Education-14 million days of access to education provided, 3 million school supplies (books, uniforms, learning tools)
  • Environment – 327,530 trees planted, 14,973 animal protected and cared for
  • Food – 7.6 million meals and1.9 million days worth of seeds give to families
  • Health – 2.3 million days of access to medical support, 28,226 pieces of clothing provided.
  • Human Rights – 3,685 days of access to support after violence or abuse, 26,793 days of support for people with physical or mental difficulties.
  • Income generation – 300, 210 days of access to skill training, 290,048 days of access to income-generating tools
  • Life enhancement – 3.9 million days of access to proper sanitation, 528,559 days of access to lighting for families around the world.
  • Shelter – 394,306 houses for disadvantaged families, 324,306 bricks provided to build houses.

Masami believes passionately in “the power of small” and suggests that “if every business and person can align to create a sustainable world together, then there’s nothing that’s impossible for us to solve”. There are numerous ways in which small and new ventures can contribute by giving (Vincent, 2020), as several of the previously featured Harmonious Entrepreneurship cases have demonstrated – most notably Modest Trends, Toast Ale and Tred. However, all too often entrepreneurs start with good intentions but believe they need to be more successful before they can fulfill their objectives to society, and even in social enterprises the pressures on the founder are often so great that there is “mission drift” (Chell et al (2016). That is assuming the entrepreneur recognizes in the first place that it is his/her responsibility not just to “make as much money as possible” but to conform to the basic rules of society, including “those embodied in ethical custom” (Friedman, 1970). Through giving such barriers can be overcome, as B1G1 has demonstrated, and “the power of small”  can bring about large-scale change in both society and the environment. New and small firms can recognise the interconnectivity of the system, address the sustainability challenge, contribute to the UN’s SDGs and respond to the increasing societal recognition of the need for social and environmental awareness and action. By so doing they can not only enhance their revenue streams and profitability but can conform to a Harmonious Entrepreneurship Business Model with a Triple Bottom Line of People-Planet-Profit.

As Schumacher recognised “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex…it takes a touch of genius –and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction”. 

References

Chell, E., Spence, L.J., Perrini, F., and Harris, J.D., (2016) Social Entrepreneurship and business ethics: Does Social equal Ethical. Journal of Business Ethics. 33(4), 619-625.

Friedman, M., (1970) The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits. New York Times. September 13, 122-126.

Schumacher, E.F. (1973), Small is beautiful: Economics as if people mattered. London: Bond &Briggs

Vincent, R. (2020) 12 Ways to Contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. B1G1. July. (https://blog.b1g1.com).

© Harmonious-Entrepreneurship.org (2021). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Professor David A. Kirby and Harmonious-Entrepreneurship.org with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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