If you think that eradicating poverty is an impossible mission, think again. According to UNDP’s statistics, the number of people living in extreme poverty dropped from 1.9 billion to 836 million between 1990 and 2015. That’s over half being raised from the poverty line. Why? Because the plight of those living in extreme poverty came to light thanks to social media. This in turn has led to governments, businesses, organisations and NGOs all working collectively to tackle the problem. Unfortunately, there are millions still living in poverty. We wouldn’t want to live in dire conditions, so why should we turn a blind eye to those who are? The world is rapidly changing, so for a business to thrive in the future it will have to start thinking more consciously and make a shift to sustainable business management very quickly.
Whilst large organisations should play a bigger role in eradicating poverty, there are initiatives small businesses can take to help achieve this goal. Lately, we have heard a lot about workers’ plight in developing countries. Strangely enough, as I was writing this blog, I came across a recent news article regarding workers conditions in factories producing toys for Walmart, Target and Costco etc. These businesses now have a lot of explaining to do.
So how can your small business get involved? Everyone has a different idea of how to eradicate poverty and the problems related to it. The journey starts with fair and equal pay. Most low paid workers will more than likely reside in countries where there is no such thing as free healthcare or free education. These are privileges that we have living in the West. So when employees are deprived of fair wages, it’s their families that suffer. They will struggle to feed their families, pay rent, educate their children, fulfil simple medicinal needs and even provide access to basic sanitary facilities. People, especially, children in such environments, are more likely to be exploited and continue to live in the cycle of poverty.
Globally, the best thing your business can do is to ensure that your supply chain is ethical. Workers producing goods for your business are paid fairly and in accordance with employment regulations. Ask your suppliers for copies of supply chain audits and/or certifications. Partner up with other businesses, consortiums and supply chain forums for better negotiating powers. Join an organisation which can carry out audits on behalf of its members. If you are in a position where you can visit the factory, do so, carry out an audit yourself.
Consider teaming up with a local charity to assist the community in accessing basic necessities. I recently came across a twitter account, @AmikaGeorge, for a campaign started by a ‘teenager campaigning for free menstrual products for schoolgirls from low-income families.’ Whether it’s access to basic needs such as sanitary, medicinal or raising literacy levels, there must be several local campaigns and charities that your business could positively contribute towards.
At home, the same initiatives apply, pay your employees fairly, in accordance with employment regulations. Consider making allowances in your budgets to pay the living wage allowance and close the gender pay gap. Women tend to be at a disadvantage when it comes to less pay in most countries, developed and less developed, a fact that has been highlighted time and time again in the media.
Do you allow flexible working hours? Staff pay hundreds of pounds every month for childcare or homecare for unwell family members. Flexible working hours enables staff to spend less on care, and more on their family’s needs. From a personal experience, a member of staff who does not have to worry about childcare provisions, for example, will be more diligent and responsible at work.
Many companies now offer a bonus scheme to all employees. The extra bit of unexpected income is another way to boost your employee’s wages and their confidence in their work ethics and the business.
Donate or contribute financially to charities locally. Everyone feels generous during Christmas and Easter, so think about committing to giving more often during other times of the year. It could be part of another religious day, a special birthday, in memory someone special, the anniversary of your business or even on the anniversary of reaching a milestone. You decide. It’s entirely up to you. By doing so, not only are you supporting individuals with basic necessities, you are also saving on the business’ waste disposal costs.
Finally, instead of discarding a piece of furniture, end of roll fabric or food item, for example, find out if there is a local company who could benefit from your unwanted items. Many parents have started up businesses by taking unwanted materials and turning them into products. Their creativity and hard work has been the difference between struggling to make ends meet and starting up a micro business. @BerryBerryUK a Nottingham based company, benefits from discarded materials. The company upcycles textile offcuts and magazines to create ethically sound handbags. Dealing with such companies can save your disposal cost and turn out to be an income earner for what you would otherwise throw away.
Every small initiative taken by your business will be your contribution towards the bigger global goals to end poverty, both locally and globally.
Thank you for reading. I would love to read your comments.
Here a few facts from the UNDPs SDG goals about poverty:
• 650 million people still live in extreme poverty globally.
• Every day in 2014, an average of 42,000 people had to abandon their homes due to conflict.
• 11% of the world’s population live in extreme poverty, down from 28% in 1999.
• About 1 in 5 persons in developing regions lives on less than US$1.25 per day.
• 80% of people living on less than $1.25 are in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
• Every day around the world, 250,000 people climb out of poverty