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Business as Mission: Where social impact and profit, and much more, converge

Post first published on the IBEC Ventures Blog, reposted with kind permission.

Some people find it confusing to read about socially conscious business, social entrepreneurship or values-driven business. Isn’t business just business – driven by profit margins acceptable to shareholders? What’s all this talk of values, social impact and community development?

For the past decade or so it has become increasingly popular to talk about social purposes, meaning that some entrepreneurs have a motive beyond profitability. They want to solve social problems and bring a positive return to society. Big corporations sometimes address this through the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); and business startups sometimes call themselves social entrepreneurs meaning they start businesses which inherently provide for maximum job growth in their area, or they hire the marginalized in the community, or they take gigantic steps to benefit the community by helping solve problems that exist in the community, or all of the above. Some entrepreneurs are driven by a cause, like a software developer eager to provide a better way for people to connect.
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Business as Mission: The Global Movement Today

Mats Tunehag has been speaking, writing and convening on business as mission for nearly 20 years. When he visited The BAM Review office recently, we asked him a few questions about the business as mission movement.

Mats, what have you seen changing in business as mission in the last 15-20 years?

We are seeing a reawakening of what it means to be a Christian in business in our day and age. There has been remarkable growth of people getting engaged in doing business for God and the common good. If we take a 15 year time span, there are things we have today that didn’t exist 15 years ago. Now, we have a greater common understanding globally of this idea that we call ‘business as mission’. There are significant common denominators in our understanding, even though terminology may vary from group to group.

15 years ago when you mentioned business as mission, there were many questions about ‘What is that?’, ‘Is this something we want to get involved in?’. Today you can travel to almost any country and bump into people who have heard of, or are talking about, or practicing, business as mission. That is one of the major changes globally. Read more

10 Guiding Principles for Business as Mission

A good business as mission business will, by definition, have many of the characteristics of any well-run business. A kingdom business must be profitable and sustainable just as any other business. Integrity, fairness and excellent customer service are characteristics of any good business, not just a business as mission venture. As such, while important, those characteristics will not by themselves necessarily point people to Christ. A kingdom business begins with the foundation of any good business, but takes its stewardship responsibilities even further.

What follows is a list of principles that should underpin a business as mission business. First we list the basic foundational principles that must exist in any good business. Following that are the principles that distinguish a good business as mission business.

Foundational Business Principles

1.  Strives to be profitable and sustainable in the long term

Profit is an indication that resources are being used wisely. It indicates that the product or service being produced and sold does so at a price that covers the cost of the resources, including the cost of capital. For most businesses, profits are fleeting, and never a sure thing. It is common for businesses to experience periods of low profit, and even negative profit. Thus it is important to take a long-term view of profitability. Occasional windfalls are often what will sustain a company through periods of financial losses. For that reason a well-managed business will use extreme care when considering whether and when to distribute profits. Profit, and its retention, is not necessarily an indication of greed. Read more

What is Business as Mission?

Read our short introduction to business as mission:

Business is a God-given vocation and institution in society, with the potential to bring multiple benefits to people, communities and nations. Business as mission intentionally leverages this intrinsic power of business to address spiritual needs, hand in hand with social, economic and environmental needs.

Business as mission is demonstrating what the Kingdom of God is like in the context of business – and as we do so, engaging with the world’s more pressing social, economic, environmental and spiritual issues.

There is a growing consensus around this idea, although other terms are also used for the same concept. Many prefer alternative terms such as: Kingdom business, missional entrepreneurship, transformational business, missional business or business for transformation (B4T), among others. Business as mission, or BAM, is just one widely used term in the English language, other terms have developed in other languages. Read more

Four Pillars of BAM Preparation

Living in Thailand, we are surrounded by houses built on pillars. This picture hangs in our house, a constant reminder of the importance of strong foundations. I think of a BAM business being like a house built on pillars. No matter what shape the house is, what it looks like on the outside, the pillars (or foundations) must be strong to support the structure.

Each individual launching into BAM will have different experiences and a different journey of preparation. BAM models and strategies will naturally be diverse. God is creative and He has made each of us to be creative. There is no single BAM model that will work for everyone, everywhere. However, there are at least four common areas that need to be intentionally built to form a strong foundation for any BAM business. Like the pillars supporting a house, if one of these areas is weak or missing the whole structure will be unstable. If you are getting ready for business as mission, be intentional about building up these four pillars of BAM preparation:

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Five Tips for Starting a BAM Journey

Getting stirred up for business as mission? Wondering how to get started, here are our top five tips:

1. Seek the Lord

Take time to pray. If God is calling you to serve Him in business, ask where, when, how, with who? What path of preparation is He leading you on?

2. Connect with BAM stories

Read about real business as mission experiences, or go to an event where you will hear practitioners share their stories. Stories bring ideas alive for us by literally lighting up more areas of our brain!

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Business as Mission: A Three-fold Mandate

by Mats Tunehag

Business is more than making money, at least it should be. According to the “father of capitalism” Adam Smith, businesses exist to serve the general welfare.

The computer pioneer Dave Packard said: ”Many people assume, wrongly, that a company exists simply to make money. While this is an important result of a company’s existence, we have to go deeper and find the real reasons for our being. People get together and exist as a company so that they are able to accomplish something collectively that they could not accomplish separately – they make a contribution to society.”

In the last few years we have been able to witness the effects of a global economic crisis. Mahatma Gandhi’s list of seven deadly social sins seems to be an accurate diagnosis for some of the causes of this crisis. It has been too much…

  • politics without principle
  • wealth without work
  • commerce without morality
  • pleasure without conscience
  • education without character
  • science without humanity
  • worship without sacrifice

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The Hottest Issues in Business as Mission

We surveyed 200 people engaged with business as mission in some way and asked them the question: ‘What is the hottest topic in the BAM movement today?’ Or in other words, what is the one question they would most like to see answered in business as mission. The wide variety of responses were grouped into these major themes to give an overview of some of the most important issues in the business as mission movement.

Here are the Top 10 ‘hottest topics’, in reverse order:

10. How do we mobilise more business people? How will business people embrace their calling and get involved?

9. How do we practice biblical, ethical business in the face of the face of hostile realities in the world? How do we maintain our values in the face of corruption and greed? Read more

What the Bible Says about Work, Economics and Business

We’ve put together some selected ideas and scriptures for digging deeper into what the Bible says about work, business and the economic sphere.

Ideas and scriptures for further study:

We are to be stewards of God’s creation: Genesis 1:28, Genesis 2:15, 19-20, Leviticus 25:2-7, Psalm 8:6.

Provision for human society and multiplication of resources is designed by God to come primarily through dignified work. God is creative and pleased with his work and we are made to be creative in His image: Genesis 2:1-3, Deuteronomy 28:1-13, Joshua 5: 11-12, Psalm 128:1‒2.

Material provisions are good and important for our daily life and the healthy functioning of communities, however they are not sufficient to fully satisfy us as humans: Deuteronomy 8, 1 Kings 4:25, Psalms 62:10, Proverbs 23:4-5, Ecclesiastes 5:10-20, Zechariah 3:10, Matthew 4:4, Matthew 6:33, Mark 8:36.

Business creates opportunities for meaningful work and creativity that is essential for human dignity and a peaceful society: Genesis 2:2-3, Ephesians 6:5-9, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, 2 Thessalonians 3:10–12.

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Building the Kingdom Through Business

by Bridget Adams and Manoj Raithatha

In his book Screw Business as Usual, Sir Richard Branson outlines his vision for nothing less than global transformation. He asks, ‘Can we bring more meaning to our lives and help change the world at the same time… a whole new way of doing things, solving major problems and turning our working into something we both love and are proud of?” His proposed solution is a new way of doing business. ‘It is time to …shift our values, to switch from a profit focus to caring for people, communities and the planet.’ Sometimes God uses prophets from outside the Church!

The world, it seems, wants business to change. The voices, powerful voices, are being heard out there. The Church, who you might think would be driving this new found hunger for ethics and transformative business, is in danger of being left behind. Branson knows that business can change the world for good, but we believe it can also change the world for God. Business can help build the Kingdom.

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