The Flourishing Microfinance Market: Past, Present and Future A conversation with Fabio Sofia, Head of Business Development, and John Staehli, Head of Marketing and Communication, Symbiotics

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Symbiotics company profile map. Source: Symbiotics.

March 2015

The World Bank estimates that half of the world's adult population – more than 2.5 billion people – does not have an account at a formal financial institution. Thanks to the rapid development of technology, today any point of sale can act as a bank and many people have since gained access to credit and banking services. However, with over one billion people still living on less than US$ 1.25 a day the role of microfinance and impact investment has been growing in importance in the past ten years. With sustainability being an increasing imperative for businesses and investors, the potential to make a positive impact on social and economic development is set to fuel continued rapid growth in the microfinance sector. To understand the dynamics of this important financial sector, we met with Symbiotics, one of the largest microfinance investment institutions with operations worldwide, to see what has changed since they launched their microfinance activities ten years ago – and what they expect ahead.

Catalyzing change: A new model of philanthropy  A conversation with Jesper Nygård, CEO of Realdania





October 2013:

Just as businesses are becoming more actively engaged in addressing social challenges and developing new business models to deliver on both purpose and profit, so too are leading non-profit organizations rethinking their role, operating models and ways of working. Giving money to deserving projects is no longer enough. Realdania, along with other leading philanthropic organizations worldwide, is driving a new model of catalytic philanthropy that actively engages multiple stakeholders and communities in realizing sustainable positive changes environmentally, socially and economically. In the last 13 years Realdania has supported philanthropic initiatives with a total project value of approximately EUR 3.7 billion. Of this amount, Realdania’s grants account for EUR 1.9 billion, while other project partners have financed the additional amounts. We recently had the chance to speak with Jesper Nygård, CEO for Realdania in Denmark, to explore what this new approach means in driving positive changes in Danish communities.

Driving change through social innovation: A conversation with Stefan Crets, Executive Director of CSR Europe



March 2013

Before Stefan Crets became Executive Director of CSR Europe in 2011 he was a corporate social responsibility leader at Toyota Motor Europe. Now he is the Executive Director of the number one European business network for corporate social responsibility (CSR). Around 70 multinational corporations and 36 national partner organizations are part of CSR Europe. In total, the network reaches out to over 5,000 companies throughout Europe. CSR Europe launched the Enterprise 2020 initiative with emphasis on social innovation as a driver of corporate social responsibility.

Global Trends: How have perspectives on CSR changed in the last 10 to 15 years?

For a long time, CSR in Europe was primarily about how to manage the impact of your business: environmental impact, social impact, governmental impact. All in all it was fairly compliance driven in the sense of meeting certain standards. Usually companies saw CSR as a separate activity, not as part of their core business, but rather as a part of communications and public affairs.

It was only in 2005/2006 that perspectives started changing. Now we see an evolution in most leading companies, where CSR is becoming part of a more integrated management approach. For example the move from public affairs to corporate or strategic planning divisions means that you link managing impact to business management, including R&D, HR, production, marketing, sales and so on.

There is another, more recent evolution: if you really want to contribute to sustainability issues and to strengthen your business, it becomes more about social innovation. It’s about which products and services you can offer that contribute to sustainability issues on local, regional or even global levels. For example, the hybrid engine is a highly social innovation: it lowers the environmental impact for society while at the same time offering growth potential to the company. These kinds of innovations set future trends.

Scientific Horizons: A Conversation with Professor Flemming Besenbacher, Chairman-Elect, The Carlsberg Foundation

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The Carlsberg Foundation (Danish: Carlsbergfondet) was founded by J. C. Jacobsen in 1876 and owns 30% of Carlsberg Group. According to the charter the Foundation must ensure that the Basic Capital always exceeds 25% of the share capital of Carlsberg A/S with an entitlement to at least 51% of the votes in Carlsberg A/S. Presently the Foundations controls approximately 74% of the votes.The Foundation’s aim is to manage the Carlsberg Laboratory and to support Danish scientific research within the fields of natural sciences, mathematics, philosophy, the humanities and social sciences. It is run by five Trustees elected by and from the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. Unusually for an organization that owns a publicly traded company, the Carlsberg Foundation aims to share its scientific advances within its industry and more broadly within Denmark and worldwide.

Global Trends recently had the chance to speak with Professor Flemming Besenbacher, who will be Chairman of the Carlsberg Foundation from the start of 2012, about the Foundation’s work and the importance of science in addressing the opportunities and challenges presented by global trends.

Giving It All Away: A Conversation with Dustin Byrne, CEO, Givmo

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Givmo ( is an intriguing start-up, with a business model built around the “freeconomy.” It focuses on helping you give away unwanted or unneeded items which may still have value to others.  Maybe you are moving house, or the children have gone to college and you don’t need the extra television, sofa, bookshelf, books… you name it.  With Givmo, it is easy to connect potential givers with potential receivers – no middleman, on which more below – and make the exchange person to person with no hassle.  The only cost for the receiver is a shipping fee which is generally below standard rates as Givmo has negotiated preferential rates.

Global Trends recently had the chance to speak with Dustin Byrne about the idea behind Givmo, and how this builds on global trends in terms of the changing notion of value and ownership, as well as the changing technology landscape.