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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) - is it BAM?

Sunday, July 16, 2017


Recently I watched a “60 Minutes”1 documentary describing the phenomenal rise of Chobani Yogurt to become the top selling yogurt brand in the United States. Founded in upstate New York in 2005 by Turkish immigrant Hamdi Ulukaya without outside investors, Chobani is a charming feel-good story of entrepreneurship.

The story seems to have all the components of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) which is a corporation's initiatives to assess and take responsibility for the company's effects on environmental and social well-being as well as the economic financial outcomes. The term generally applies to efforts that go beyond what may be required by regulators or environmental protection groups.

Despite examples of abuse and attempts to deceive the public, generally CSR is a good thing, based in part in the philosophy of the Triple Bottom Line, a term coined by John Elkington in 1994. A CSR-responsible company develops its policies, programs, standards and principles in accordance with:

People – what is good for the human capital and the social good. Such is true at Chobani. “From the beginning I tried to treat everybody right,” Ulukaya said in a speech last month. “We paid everyone well above minimum wage. Everybody in our plant gets the same holidays as everybody in the office. Our entire company — hourly or salaried — would get full health care, retirement plans.”

Not long ago Ulukaya offered 10% of the company ownership to his 2,000 employees. But perhaps the most interesting decision was to hire legal refugees in his New York and Twin Falls, Idaho plants. Today more than 600 refugees have jobs. Says Ulukaya, “The No. 1 thing that you can do is provide them jobs. The minute they get a job, that’s the minute they stop being a refugee.”

Profit – without question Chobani is a profitable company, and is valued at over $1 billion today. The owner understands the customer and creates value for all stakeholders. Such value-creation has been translated into profitability and sustainability.

Planet – the third bottom line is concern for the environment and the health of people. The mission of Chobani to have “better food for more people” translates into the use of natural ingredients, more protein, less sugar and ultimately a healthier lifestyle, illustrated in this partnership with McDonalds: http://www.chobani.com/nutritioncenter.

Cows are not treated with rBST and animal welfare is an ethical and moral imperative. All of creation is important to Mr. Ulukaya and Chobani.

This certainly is good. It is good CSR; it is a good business model. But is it BAM?

Business as Mission (BAM)

BAM often talks of the Quadruple Bottom Line, with the 4th item being the all-important commitment to be a Kingdom Company and ultimately a Great Commission Company. All of the above-mentioned components of CSR are great and important but a Business as Mission company requires the owner and management to operate the company with Biblical principles and for the glory of God.

Rundle and Steffen in Great Commission Companies define such as “…a socially responsible, income producing business managed by Kingdom professionals and created for the specific purpose of glorifying God and promoting the growth and multiplication of local churches in the least evangelized and least developed parts of the world.”2

BAM company leaders “…make it known in their personal and professional daily speech, actions, lifestyles, management styles, decisions and testimonies that they are ardent followers of Jesus and are doing their best to conduct all aspects of the business in a manner worthy of the gospel.”3 Thus BAM companies incarnate the life of Jesus and proclaim the gospel verbally when there is opportunity.

The result – more and more people become followers of Jesus; lives (and ultimately communities) are transformed. This is a 4th “bottom line” and an essential one.
IBEC believes in CSR and we love stories like Chobani. But our work is in the direction of Business as Mission; Kingdom companies producing Jesus followers.

1 CBS 60 Minutes, April 6, 2017,  Chobani founder stands by hiring refugees. 
2 Rundle, Steve & Steffen, Tom. Great Commission Companies, InterVarsity Press (2011), p. 45.
3 Johnson, C. Neal.  Business as Mission, InterVarsity Press (2009), p. 280.


Sight for Souls – medicine as a business

Saturday, July 08, 2017


Not long ago, I was talking with Ken Leahy, former IBEC Director and board member. He was giving me an update on the for-profit Discovery Eye Institute (DEI) in Ethiopia (owned by Sight for Souls in the USA). Ken is the treasurer of DEI and along with Gwen Rapp provided IBEC consulting services for DEI.

Trachoma is the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide, affecting 41 million people, most of them in the world's poorest countries. Children are the most frequently infected by trachoma which, if untreated, causes a painful and irreversible blindness by age 30-40.

Ethiopia is particularly severely affected, making up 30% of trachoma cases in all of Africa. In fact, trachoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the country.

Trachoma is a completely preventable and treatable cause of blindness. Blindness and severe pain can be prevented through a safe, affordable surgical procedure that costs only $40 per patient.

Founder John Kempen provided an update a few months ago and he refers to “…so many years of planning and work.” Ken provided much of the financial planning and work for what now is a clinic with 9 staff plus doctors - and with doors open for about six months. Read this from Dr. Kempen:

It was a great start to the day. Seeing an old man sitting in a wheelchair with an eye patch on reminded me that my partner, Dr. Emebet, had been doing surgery yesterday, only the second surgery since we had started the full scale Discovery Eye Center after so many years of planning and work. As I took his patch off, there was a slight pause, and then a startled look came into the man’s face followed by a big smile and he started looking around the room. “God’s blessings be upon you!” he proclaimed. It is traditional for a “shee-mah-gee-lay” (an elderly, respected man) to bless the young, especially when he is happy. The blessings rained down this time.

He began to talk. He was a Korean war veteran, apparently one of not so many who had survived battles back in the 1950s, and he showed me a picture of himself as a well-dressed young man exploring Tokyo ten days after leaving the war zone. Since we are working in partnership with the Korean Myung Sung Christian Medical Center, which was inspired by the thankfulness the Koreans have toward those who saved them from falling under the dictatorship of the Kim family in North Korea, it was especially poignant to begin our launch with this particular gentleman. Yesterday, he had been blind—like about 500,000 other people in Ethiopia, limited to the ability to tell whether the light in the room was on or off. Today, before we even put any eyedrops in to wash the mucous away, he was already seeing 20/40. What a change! And not uncommon with cataract surgery, especially among those whose eyes have been neglected as with so many here who have little access to care, even in Addis Ababa.

I was heartily encouraged, since it meant both that our hard-won equipment for planning the surgery was working well, and our new staff members were using it properly. I wasn’t surprised by that, but it is exciting to see the fruit of that labor and the promise of more to come!

This little incident, one among many patients, was God’s blessing to remind me and all of our team (now four ophthalmologists, two optometrists, and four nurses) a little bit about why we had come to Addis Ababa and given up alternatives that the world might see as better. It is such a blessing to work in a time when much can be done for so many using the skills and equipment God has provided through his people.

Please pray for us now, as we make the welcome transition from the new foundation of a clinic with a great deal of capacity to employing that capacity to bless people and to shine the light of God’s saving grace in this land, which has for more than 1,400 years been a front line against the aggressive expansion of our neighboring religion. In particular, we would like to begin doing outreaches to the poor around the city, and gradually expanding outward into the nether regions of Ethiopia, which provide a lot of opportunity to partner with churches in bringing physical and spiritual sight to the blind.

There remain all kinds of challenges and stresses with the work, expectations, and of our family living in a very different situation. Most of these are great opportunities that we have sought for years and for which we praise God. Nonetheless, they still require strength, grace, and wisdom along with a healthy dose of elbow grease.

Please pray with us:
  • That the project can be adequately funded during the startup period of operating at a deficit
  • That we can successfully wade through the bureaucratic jello to bring in all the remaining equipment (some progress there recently, praise God)
  • That we can build partnerships and strategies to make the most of the spiritual opportunities that come with the dramatic physical benefit we can provide to many, as the parallel between restoring physical sight and being opened to the light of the gospel was one of the main reasons I chose this profession in the first place!
John Kempen

DEI is inspired by the self-sustaining Aravind Eye Care model, developed in India. Here are a couple of videos one of which shows some of the beneficiaries of the surgeries and the other video is provided by Mrs. Kempen showing the heart of this social business enterprise.

10 Ben Franklin quotes for business owners

Sunday, July 02, 2017


Historian Richard Morris suggests that there are seven key Founding Fathers.  Predictably they are John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington. If you are an entrepreneur or a business owner, you may identify most with Benjamin Franklin. Arguably he may have been the most successful inventor, entrepreneur and business person of the group.

On this Independence Day weekend, reflect on these ten quotes of Ben Franklin and apply them to your business initiative (or personal life). And thank God for the republic.

1. By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

2. Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.

3. He that rises late must trot all day.

4. Rather go to bed without dinner than to rise in debt.

5. The US constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it.  You have to catch up with it yourself.

6. A penny saved is a penny earned.

7. I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion about the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.

8. To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.

9. Never confuse motion with action.

10.  Work as if you were to live a hundred years.  Pray as if you were to die tomorrow. 



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