Including women in work

June 13, 2017
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A woman attends her produce post in a market in zone 3, Guatemala City. Guatemala.

Maria Fleischmann / World Bank

Latin American enterprises are proving that “for profit” can also mean “for social good”

Teresa Comparini always had a passion for promoting healthy living and nutrition. In 2010, she turned her passion into a business by opening Terrium, a Chilean company that sells delicious organic and sugar-free goodies. The socially conscious food scientist turned entrepreneur didn’t stop there — she made Terrium into a “B Corporation”, also known as “B Corps”.

Certified by B Lab, B Corps are for-profit companies that use business to solve social and environmental problems. B Lab is supported by Sistema B, an IDRC-supported non-profit that is leading a new movement of B corporations and a community of social entrepreneurs in Latin America.

Not only does Terrium produce environmentally sustainable products, but the company is also organized around the needs of local women and their families. Teresa hired a handful of women living near the production site to limit their travel to and from work, and she designed a business model that aligns daily work hours and vacations with school schedules.

The IDRC-funded research project Counting Women’s Work found that the time women and girls spend working in the job market and at home typically exceeds the time spent by men and boys on the same activities. Women and girls also take on a greater burden caring for their grandparents, parents, children, and grandchildren. The flexibility of Teresa’s model is significant because it helps to reduce the burden of household care while providing women with decent economic opportunities.

Social enterprises such as Teresa’s are changing the way we understand business and allocate profit.

“Our approach is an invitation to open our mental maps, to enlarge the limits of the possible in our minds, and build a new economy where economic opportunities offer well-being for women and their families, and do not come at the expense of life. Public policy focuses on creating economic opportunities for women, but forgets that 40% of homes are single parent households. Imagine if public policy supported the creation of jobs based on the real needs of women and families.”  - Maria Emilia Correa, director at Sistema B

credit: C Communications
Teresa Comparini, founder of Terrium y Biosnack

IDRC is supporting research on inclusive business models that embrace social and environmental objectives along with economic goals. 

In partnership with Sistema B, IDRC is also supporting Academia B to develop a research agenda on the potential for these companies to elevate women’s business leadership and generate economic opportunities for marginalized women and youth.

B Corps around the world are demonstrating how this new business model is viable in the modern economy. The definition of success is expanded to include the ability to meet people’s needs, offer a higher quality of life, and provide decent work.

The difference is that the business model is organized around the notion of contributing to society’s welfare as a major purpose, beyond financial returns. B Corps such as Crepes & Waffles, the largest restaurant chain in Colombia, offer opportunities for single mothers; Maravil offers work and income for women who cannot leave their homes; and Paloma & Angostura offer jobs to former female guerilla fighters in Colombia.

The B Corps model shows that corporations can do good and also obtain positive financial results. Or, as the members of this “movement” would say, these are “life generating” corporations. Today there is a growing community of more than 1,600 certified B Corps in 42 countries, and more than 120 industries who are working together towards a new system of socially-conscious entrepreneurship.