Guest Articles

February 3

Scott Anderson / Kyle Poplin / James Militzer

Social Business Roundup: Debating UBI in India, Pondering Change at WHO, Questioning SRI

In India, the Debate around UBI is anything but Basic

India’s Ministry of Finance released its annual survey of the economy, which includes a chapter that explores replacing welfare programs with a universal basic income (UBI) – a stipend paid out to every citizen regardless of their income.

“It’s an idea whose time is ripe for further deliberation and discussion, and not necessarily for immediate implementation,” Arvind Subramanian, the ministry’s chief economic adviser and lead author of the economic survey, told The Wall Street Journal.

But G. Sampath, a columnist at The Hindu, wasn’t having it:

“The growing chorus for a universal basic income is a ruse to eliminate or roll back significantly the public distribution system and signature welfare programmes.”


WHO and the limitations of the donor model

An editorial in Nature magazine this week says it’s time for the World Health Organization (WHO), as it chooses a new leader, to redefine “what it can and cannot be reasonably expected to do.”

WHO, the United Nations’ vastly underfunded public health agency, has “become dangerously dependent on voluntary contributions,” which comprise more than 80 percent of its budget, ultimately leaving it with little say in its own agenda, according to the editorial.

WHO should stop trying to be a global health firefighter, Nature suggests, and concentrate on being a facilitator and providing scientific expertise for organizations better suited to address emerging issues.


Are SRI investors shooting themselves in the foot?

A thought-provoking argument from investment adviser Aaron Brask: Does socially responsible investment (SRI) really affect corporate decision-making – and could it actually help “sin stock” companies?

A major purpose of avoiding investments in these stocks is to minimize their share prices and valuations and make it harder for them to raise money. But as Brask explains, many companies tend to buy back their own stock, including over 70 percent of NYSE-listed sin stocks (according to his analysis). So if these shares are cheaper, the companies and their shareholders can actually benefit – something that calls many SRI investing strategies into question.


How Clean is Clean Cooking Fuel?

Last week’s roundup led with a post about a controversial $30 million study looking at the health and ecological benefits/downsides of liquefied petroleum gas as a clean cooking fuel.

Separately, the Global Clean Cookstoves Alliance has released a report in coordination with Eastern Research Group that looks at the full life cycle assessment of  “11 different cooking fuels, including a range of biomass sourced from different sources such as wood, agricultural residue, and bamboo, as well as liquid, and gas options,” according to the public-private alliance. LPG is among the fuels analyzed in the “cradle to grave” review.


The perfect sack … or maybe just a voucher

You don’t have to invent a vaccine to make the world healthier; sometimes you just have to build a better sack.

That’s the crux of a Devex article detailing how USAID, the world’s biggest food aid donor, is looking into ways to prevent waste and spoilage, and save $15 million a year. They’ve even commissioned a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to find solutions.

One obvious solution? Don’t ship food, but support local markets. That’s why USAID wants up to 25 percent of its 2017 food aid resources budget available for “market-based interventions such as local and regional procurement of commodities, food vouchers or cash transfers.”


Quantifying the impact of digital finance

An interesting new report from Oliver Wyman, the Asian Development Bank and MicroSave, on the role of digital finance in boosting financial inclusion in Southeast Asia.

The report found that while digital finance alone can’t ensure inclusion, its cumulative effect can be significant. How significant? “Digitally driven acceleration in financial inclusion could boost GDP by 2 – 3 percent in markets like Indonesia and the Philippines, and 6 percent in Cambodia.” For those earning less than $2 a day, that would equal “a 10-percent increase in income in Indonesia and the Philippines, and an increase of around 50 percent in Cambodia.”



“There’s both a moral and market reason to understand and embrace the sustainable development goals.”

– Thane Kreiner, executive director of the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship on the  Social Entrepreneur Podcast, hosted by Tony Loyd. The Miller Center is marking its 20th anniversary.


Photo credit: Connie Ma, via Flickr.



Energy, Health Care, Investing
clean cooking, digital finance, financial inclusion, impact investing