By Zahid Torres-Rahman, Founder and Director, Business Fights Poverty
Recent events in the US and UK have reminded me of a love story. When I was 12, I vividly remember my grandmother telling me the story of how in her early 20s she met and fell in love with my grandfather. But theirs was no ordinary love story. You see, she was an Anglo-Irish girl living in the British colonies in Asia in the 1930s, and he was an Indian boy. They went on to marry, and she was disowned by her family, friends and community. Theirs is a story of love overcoming hate, of building deep connections in a world that was deeply disconnected. Their marriage came 30 years before inter-racial marriage was finally legalised across America and 30 years before the first inter-racial kiss was broadcast on British television.
I take strength from their bravery, and I know it is their example that drives my own passion to create a more connected world. There has never been a more important time to be brave, to stand up for love in the face of hate, to stand up for a positive vision for humanity, to double our efforts in the fight for justice and equality, to not lose faith nor fall into despair, but to connect even more deeply and collaborate even more purposefully for a better, more just world.
We must channel the emotions stirred up by the US election and Brexit referendum into a renewed passion for living the principles we all hold dear. A lesson must surely be that the spread of fairness and equality is not an inevitable force of nature, but something we must defend and drive forward every single day, through every decision we make and every action we take. We must do that within our families, our communities and our workplaces - from the way we treat colleagues to the way we stand up for strangers, from the way we bring up our daughters and our sons to the way we contribute to protecting the planet for future generations. Never has it been more urgent for each of us to realise that we have the power, and indeed the responsibility, to stand up for a just, progressive and fair society.
For our part, my team and I have a renewed passion for rethinking how business can collaborate for people and planet. Since January, we have focused on bringing together the best minds and most passionate people to take rapid action to address specific global Challenges - from advancing women’s economic empowerment to improving the incomes of small-holder farmers (If you haven’t already, you can join, suggest or support a Challenge here).
More than ever, we need business leaders to champion the progressive world we want to see, as clearly most current political leaders seem incapable or unwilling to take on that role. Let’s each of us make it our quest not just to defend the progress that has been so fiercely fought for, but to accelerate progress between now and 2030.
So what steps can business take? Here are three ideas.
Speak Up: Individually and collectively, business needs to stand up against sexism, racism and bigotry. Lego should be celebrated for its recent decision to stop advertising in the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper, following a campaign by Stop Funding Hate.
Drive Action: Businesses need to take action across their spheres of influence to drive greater equality and inclusion, and to ensure continued action on climate change. Richard Branson has called for “business leaders to join forces and start working on the issues they care about”. We need to tackle with renewed urgency the underlying issues of social exclusion that have been highlighted in the US and Europe.
Mobilise: Business can play a leadership role in maintaining momentum towards a more progressive world. Project Everyone provides one vehicle to mobilise employees, customers and the wider community around the recently-launched Sustainable Development Goals. Right now, we are looking at rolling out local Chapters focused on harnessing the insights of college students and young professionals around our Challenges and the role of business in driving change.
The spread of progressive values may not be a force of nature, but collectively we have extraordinary power to shape the world we want to see.
I would love to hear your thoughts. What specific actions can business take? What specific actions can you take? What specific actions can we at Business Fights Poverty take? What do you think about the idea of local Chapters, and would you like to be involved?