A non-profit organization headquartered in Brazil is challenging the notion that capitalism and compassion don't mix.
The work of Ethnic US is hard to classify; executive director and Brazil resident Jared Odle tempers his bottom-line business sense with a healthy dose of altruism, soliciting investors and grants to generate start-up costs for new businesses in developing countries and measuring the success of a venture in terms of social, environmental and spiritual impact-- though profitability remains a consideration.
According to Odle, this "multiple bottom line" business model fosters the growth of industry in developing countries while simultaneously improving the quality of life in the communities it targets. The ultimate goal: investors as well as local-level participants benefit from the venture.
"In the past 10 years, there's been more of a need for corporate entities to get involved in social issues," he said. "This concept is still emerging."
Ethnic US was established in 2001, focusing mainly on developing areas in central Asia while establishing a base of potential investors in Europe. But when Odle took over in late 2005, the company boasted a long list of contacts but fewer tangible results.
"It's been a non-profit sitting on a shelf for a few years, and I'm coming in and launching it," he said.
Employing a global network of business contacts, Odle selects areas that express a potential for success and consults with possible investors-- businessmen, church leaders and government officials-- before handing the venture over to Gateway Economies, the division of Ethnic US charged with on-site coordinating: site selection, hiring and initial oversight.
The goal is to establish a "business incubator," Odle said-- "A place where several businesses get started"-- which in turn grows into a global presence.
"What we'll be able to do is start a network of businesses around the world," he said. "The goal is to make each incubator self-sustaining."
Ethnic US is currently targeting the French-speaking west coast of Africa while maintaining its base in central Asia, Odle said.