Ideas & Debate

The rise of social, environmentally conscious business

Nation Media Group (NMG) Regional Business Manager, Coast Region Naomi Mbuvi (left) leads the NMG team to give out Kshs 200,000 textbooks to pupils at Mwangala Primary School in Mombasa as part of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) on 7th July 7, 2017. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Nation Media Group (NMG) Regional Business Manager, Coast Region Naomi Mbuvi (left) leads the NMG team to give out Kshs 200,000 textbooks to pupils at Mwangala Primary School in Mombasa as part of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) on 7th July 7, 2017. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Until about two decades ago when Sir John Elkington coined the term Triple Bottom Line emphasising the triple play of People, Planet and Profit in business -- few people paid attention.

This thinking challenged the then dominant 20th century mind-set of companies long advocated by Milton Friedman, who believed that business had no role to play in addressing social and environmental challenges despite being the largest consumer of resources and human capital. These challenges, according to the dominant view, were left for government and civil society.

Fast forward to the 21st century and Sir Elkington’s philosophy is fast gaining currency not only in the developed world, but also developing markets, such as Kenya.

Increasingly, businesses are recognising that despite massive prosperity and technological innovation, globalisation is intensifying, spawning complex issues calling for attention from different players. From massive environmental depletion and degradation due to unsustainable extractive practices without replenishment to a litany of social ills, the world faces many challenges.