Trophy-giving ceremonies tend to be backslapping affairs, but not this year's CEO Middle East Awards. Our sister title hosted an extraordinary event where the keynote speaker Guarav Sinha told an audience of CEOs: "Capitalism is far from perfect and today my issue is with the broken contract between corporations and society, and the culture of mindless consumption that is causing irreversible negative impact on both the planet and its people."
From debt-fuelled growth and the widening gap between rich and poor, to political instability and environmental devastation, there is a global issue with capitalism that could explain (though not justify) reactions as diverse as protest votes for Donald Trump, Brexit, trade wars or the rise of far-right parties in Europe.
But those CEOs are also part of the solution. Business does not have to be a win-lose equation. The best deals always benefit both parties. A great example of this idea in action is the Hult Prize, founded in 2009 by Ahmad Ashkar. Having quit the banking sector, the Palestinian-American was in his first few weeks of an MBA at Hult Business School when he had a realisation. “When I heard about the idea of servicing the poor through for-good, for-profit companies, my ‘a-ha’ moment was this: why stop at sustainability? Why can’t we bring bankers, consultants and engineers into the giving space? How come we can’t service capitalism and humanitarianism in one swoop?”
He pitched an idea to foster this concept to the school’s founder Bertil Hult, who loved it and has thus far invested millions in the prize that bears his name. In less than a decade it has launched industry leaders in healthcare, food and transportation. Two of them are on their way to becoming billion-dollar companies.
In this edition of Inside AB, Jeremy Lawrence and Shayan Shakeel take a look at the problem with capitalism, and the capitalists who have radical, yet workable, plans to fix it.
(Source: Arabianbusiness.com YouTube channel)