In Summary
  • Cut-throat competition among companies in an attempt to catch the eye of the customer is pushing more firms into new business models that are making the line between chasing profits and funding social programmes increasingly foggy.
  • Corporates are investing heavily in social-impact projects to win new patronage as well as make their business sustainable.
  • To live the mantra of “people, place and profit”, more firms are now spending millions of shillings in sustainable programmes that help solve societal problems while, at the same time, earning them revenue.
  • The advent of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has pushed companies to refocus their businesses on making society problems such as poverty and poor social amenities a full-time concern.

Cut-throat competition among companies in an attempt to catch the eye of the customer is pushing more firms into new business models that are making the line between chasing profits and funding social programmes increasingly foggy.

Corporates are investing heavily in social-impact projects to win new patronage as well as make their business sustainable.

To live the mantra of “people, place and profit”, more firms are now spending millions of shillings in sustainable programmes that help solve societal problems while, at the same time, earning them revenue.

The advent of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has pushed companies to refocus their businesses on making society problems such as poverty and poor social amenities a full-time concern.

Giants such as Safaricom and Equity Group have been at the forefront in embedding social programmes into their business models, using them to make profits while at the same time improving the well-being of wananchi.

At an open session with the press last year, Safaricom officials stressed this changing face of business, that is, moving away from corporate social responsibility as it has always been.

Sanda Ojiambo, who heads the corporate responsibility department at Safaricom, said that since social programmes cost money, they have to be embedded in businesses if they are to be sustainable.

“The business of business can no longer be just to do business. Businesses that exist for the profit motive alone do so for only a short while,” she said.

“It is going to cost you to build a sustainable business. But you have to look at how that cost pays you in the long term. As much as there is a cost in implementing SDGs, there is a substantial cost for not doing it.”

For Safaricom, it started integrating nine of the 17 SDGs into the business strategy. After about 17 years of using the catchphrase “The better option”, the telco switched to “Twaweza” in 2017, Kiswahili for “We can”.

Chief executive Bob Collymore said the new focus would be on building a more human network that leverages the strength of individual talent and the overall power of community.

To promote access to health, the firm launched the M-Tiba platform, which enables low-income earners to save for health services.

While this promotes access to health, it has also seen more than 916,000 people enrol for the service, offering Safaricom more customers as well as increased use of the M-Pesa platform, a revenue part of the business.

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