How entrepreneurs can address poverty, carbon emissions, and unemployment

Have you ever considered the interaction of poverty, unemployment and carbon emissions? As I was reading the book A World of Three Zeros by Muhammad Yunus, he describes how the interaction of these can be addressed by social businesses. In his perspective, social businesses (an expansion on what’s currently considered business) can get us to a world of three zeros; zero poverty, zero unemployment and zero carbon emissions.

Photo by Timon Studler | Accessed on

Key ideas

  1. Everyone can be an entrepreneur.
  2. Expand the concept of a “business.”
  3. Change the systems and assumptions.

Everyone can be an entrepreneur

One of the biggest messages in this book is that everyone can be an entrepreneur. There is no specific type of person that is born to be an entrepreneur, it’s not limited to certain people. It’s really just another way to be creative and finding innovative solutions. Anyone can develop that skill, if given the opportunity.

Everyone has the potential to become an entrepreneur. We just need to provide the opportunity, resources, and expand the concept of what a business can do. Sometimes people are limited by a lack of opportunities or resources (especially capital investments). But sometimes people are just limited by the idea that a business has to revolve around making a profit (see next section).

When everyone can become an entrepreneur, you allow people to change from being a job seeker into a job creator, which helps everybody. Letting people change their mentality of having to find a job, into how to create a job for themselves and others opens the door for so many new ideas and opportunities.

Expand the concept of a “business”

Going hand in hand with above, is to change the concept of a “business” to do more than create profit.

A business is just a creative way to address a problem. It doesn’t need to create profit, it needs to sustain itself and have potential for growth, but what you measure as success expand past just profits. Instead of profit being the main measure of success, profit can simply be a means to grow the business, by putting the money back into the business to create more opportunities

Business can be a tool to develop creativity and self-discovery. The entrepreneurial spirit is primarily innovation and creativity, and can be applied to any issue. There is tremendous opportunity to channel these skills for the greater good and creatively solve

An alternative to the profit driven business is a social business. A social business is a business that aims to address a social problem. The success of the business can change from ROI (return on investment) that primarily looks at profits to maximizing SROI (social return on investment). Once you expand what a business can do, you can easily adjust the key performance indicators (KPIs) to focus on areas that are important to the success it hopes to achieve. The key skills of building a business can easily be adjusted to other definitions of success.

Once you expand this concept of “business”, you open the door to creative solutions to so many social issues. It also gives people the opportunity to do what they’re passionate about, while improving the world around them. Community based solutions are typically the most sustainable and effective as they are more likely to understand the context and what will actually work within the community.

People are the key to solving world problems, and right now there’s so much untapped potential.

Change the systems and assumptions

In order to expand business concepts and open the door to more creative solutions, there are systems and assumption that need to change. To start, we need to change business to be more than just about profits, providing alternative definitions of success.

Another key assumption that we need to change is that all people are inherently selfish. Generally, people want to help but are restricted by the system, which limits what can be done. However, if we start functioning on the assumption that all people are inherently selfless, we can chance the systems and open society up to help others.

Another way to support changing the system is to provide training and support to those starting their own business (social or any other kind). Training provides guidance for other people on their journey, and you often need more than just a good idea, you need to know how to put it into action. Providing resources (money, connections, etc.) can greatly improve people’s access to starting a business. Businesses require money to start and build momentum, and money can create opportunities where people feel like they have none. Micro-loans became very popular because they showed that sometimes people just need a little support, and that people can do a lot with a little.

Overall, we need to change the system through an integrated manner. Change mindsets and provide opportunities, then you’ll see people flourish.

Final thoughts

I felt like this book was very hopeful. It chose to look at the good in humanity and highlight how we can actually address large social issues. We have the potential, people are inherently good, so let’s setup systems that encourage positive change.

This book felt aimed at people in business, and not necessarily at people who just want to change the world. It had business language and talked about untapped opportunities, while providing hope and challenging what it means to be a business.

It was a unique book. It’s not a typical entrepreneurial book nor a typical let’s save the world kind of book.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!