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Affecting Change

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Recently, I was invited to speak about how equitable business practices contribute towards a just and peaceful world. As I considered what to say, I realized that three “simple” statements launched my journey and led me to where I am today.

About 25 years ago, I heard the song titled Equal Rights, by Peter Tosh. In it he sings, “Everyone is crying out for peace, but none is crying out for justice. I don’t want no peace, I need equal rights and justice.” And then the next line clinched it for me: “Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die”! Just as dying is a necessary step to get to heaven, equal rights and justice are necessary steps towards peace. Until he connected the dots for me, what’s so obvious now wasn’t so clear before.

Then, about 12 years ago, when I was going through my coaching certification program, my teacher gave me a question to sit with: “How much is enough?” A simple question, it can mean different things to different people. For me, during the dot-com boom, while I was busy climbing the corporate ladder, it meant asking myself how much money was enough. It meant considering when I would be willing to say that I was earning enough and that I was satisfied.

Finally, about 6 years ago, I heard Muhammad Yunus talk about using the for-profit business model to solve a social problem. Most people use this model to make profit, he said, but some people may want to use it to affect social change. And why not? Why not indeed, I wondered!

These three statements have now come to life in Upohar, the social enterprise I established in 2011.

Using a for-profit business model, we are trying to affect social change: we offer meaningful employment paying living wages to refugees in our community. Through the question “how much is enough”, we consider how much a person needs to earn to live on, and how much profit we need to make to be a sustainable business. By acknowledging the dignity of labor and celebrating our employees’ culture and heritage, we focus on equal treatment of all.

For us, these are the necessary steps towards a just and peaceful community and society.