Business as a Force for Good

Business as a Force for Good

Bart Hartman
Founder & CEO at NOTS Solar Lamps

My speech to the brightest 2% of international young business leaders.

In 1987 I did an MBA at Insead in Fontainebleau. Last Monday I went back to give the keynote speech at the opening ceremony for the new MBA class. I built my speech on Insead’s mission ‘Business as a Force for Good’ and tried to inspire the 240 students to become a force for good. 

Here’s what I told them:

Why is ‘becoming a force for good’ a good idea? 

“I really enjoyed my life as a profit seeking entrepreneur. And prior to that, working as a consultant with McKinsey was great and I learned a lot.

But contributing something to a better world, in my case providing electricity to low-income African households, gives a unique kind of satisfaction. Working with people from a completely different culture can be extremely frustrating. But when you accomplish something together, it feels so good. And the beauty of it is that this type of satisfaction comes on top of the ‘normal’ buzz you get from things like solving a problem, closing a deal and socializing with your colleagues.

Becoming a force for good is good for you personally because you get to a level of fulfilment you can’t achieve when you remain a profit-seeking entrepreneur or a ‘normal’ employee in a company

A second reason to become a force for good is that it is very much needed. We are facing huge problems in the world: climate change, poverty, inequality, racism, COVID-19, the list goes on.

For a long time, we thought – hoped – that organizations like the UN, World Bank, governments and NGOs would solve these problems. Unfortunately, this isn’t happening. So, we need other actors – and that means you.

If you look at the size of start-ups compared to the size of the problem they are addressing, it becomes clear that relying on start-ups alone will just take too long

There are many promising start-ups that aim to solve one or other of these problems. NOTS Solar Lamps, the social enterprise I founded, is one of them. However, if you look at the size of these start-ups compared to the size of the problem they are addressing, it becomes clear that relying on start-ups will just take too long.

Since 2010 about 500 companies worked towards providing African households with solar home systems. The largest sold about 200,000 systems last year. Compare this with the 125 million African households that still don’t have electricity, and it is clear that if we rely only on start-ups, we won’t solve the electricity problem in Africa.

Unfortunately, the same is true for the other, defining problems of our times.

So, we can’t get there with start-ups alone. We need the big corporates too. First of all, because they played – and still play – an important role in causing the problems. They use scarce natural resources (minerals, water, etc.) for manufacturing their products. They emit CO2. They pay wages in developing countries that are so low, people can’t have a decent living. Secondly, only big corporates have the capabilities, capital, brands and client base needed to solve the big problems at scale.

The big corporates won’t devote themselves to solving the big problems without some push, from inside or outside the company.

The CEOs of Blackrock and former CEOs of Unilever and DSM are still the exceptions. For instance, last year the CEOs of 180 large companies that form the US Business Council announced that they would move their focus from shareholders-only, to all stakeholders including employees and clients. And just last week an interesting analysis of the 2019 annual reports of these 180 companies was published. Over 95% of the CEOs in their ‘letter from the CEO’ addressed only the shareholders. No other stakeholders were mentioned. So, these companies, and most others, still have a long way to go to become that force for good.

Here is where you – profit seeking entrepreneurs and ‘normal’ company employees – come in. If you want a prosperous, healthy, happy future for yourself and for your children, you have to become a force for good.

In business there are two main routes to that goal. You can become a social entrepreneur. Or as an employee and senior manager, you can convince your CEO to replace profit maximization as goal #1 with an impact goal, which makes profit a means to a better end.

It would be irresponsible for you to leave these challenges to others

Plus, don’t forget, becoming a force for good brings you to a higher level of satisfaction and happiness. Way more than you’ll find as a profit-maximizing entrepreneur or manager.

Most of you came to Fontainebleau because you want to change something drastically in your professional life.You can’t address your desire for change in a better way than by becoming a force for good.

I want to challenge you as individuals but also as a class. You, Class July 2021, use your time together here at Insead to develop a force for good project that has such a big positive impact that you are proud of it. Do something so good that papers like the Economist and Financial Times write about it.

I am sure that with your combined brainpower, you will come up with an excellent Class July 2021 Force for Good project.

Good luck.”

CIC – Sustainable Food Habits Challenge 15 Oct – 12 Dec 2020

Dear INSEAD Friends,

As you might know the Community Impact Challenge (CIC) launched their first campaign in plastics last year. It was very successful, but we also learned a lot and have made improvements to make this next challenge even a bigger success. This time we focus on sustainable food habits.

In our eyes, your awareness and action are already a success for this campaign. What we do on an individual level, might seem like a drop in the ocean, but together we have the potential to create a powerful trickle-down effect. Changes, not only for us but, for our next generations.

Earlier this week, we heard Ronan Harrington speak about how we have 12 years left to take radical action. Be that drop of change and join us in the sustainable food habits challenge.

You can choose from three actions:
1) Consume less meat
2) Reduce food waste
3) Buy locally and seasonally

Watch this interesting webinar for more information.

The challenge starts on 15th October and ends on 12th December. For more details click here.

Best wishes,

Dianne Baunbaek
Sven Cobben (President NAA-NL)
Raymond van Eck (Vice- President NAA-NL)

Building a business in e-Health, September 23, 2020

Hilversum 23 september 2020. Classic-Cars met allure glanzend geparkeerd in de ruimte van de smaakvolle entrée van het kantoor van UMENZ. Het is een ongewoon decor voor een ongewone avond.

Door de Corona lock down was deze avond eerder afgeblazen de organisatoren trokken alles uit de kast om een Corona veilige omgeving te creëren. Niet eerder werd een INSEAD presentatie in Nederland gevolgd door participanten getooid met mond-neusmaskers van goede kwaliteit. Deelnemers kregen bij ontvangst een eigen ‘dinner sandwich bag’. Social distancing, handdesinfectie en ventilatie waren vanzelfsprekend goed geregeld.

Een eerste event weer F2F was geweldig. Al snel ontstond er een open vertrouwelijke sfeer waarin de echte issues en vragen op tafel kwamen. Bevlogen spraken Pieter-Joep Huige (UMENZ) en Oscar van Dijk (Medicine Men) over de ‘struggle’ van het ondernemen in E-Health in Nederland. De passie om waarde te willen creëren en de cliënt als vanzelfsprekend centraal te stellen in hun oplossingen hadden zij gemeen. De waarde verzilveringsvraag bleek een lastige. Het vertrouwen dat die vraag positief beantwoord zal gaan worden is echter rotsvast aanwezig.

Gerichte opbouwende vragen van deelnemers leidde snel tot verdieping en nieuwe oplossingsrichtingen. De sessie deed met momenten denken aan de INSEAD case avonden waarop een van de deelnemers een issue uit zijn eigen praktijk deelt met andere deelnemers en hen uitnodigt mee te denken. Persoonlijk contact maakt zo’n avond in deze tijd extra bijzonder.

Cynthia Go en Thomas Calis

INSEAD Special Interest Group Health Care & Life Sciences


Dear alumni,

I assume that all of you have seen the shocking footage of the devastation caused by the unprecedented explosion in Beirut. Our alumni friends of the IAA Lebanon have started a fund raising campaign to support the Lebanese Red Cross. It would be great if we could all help a bit by donating to their cause.

Please have a look at, where you can easily make your donation. The IAA Lebanon will donate this to the Lebanese RedCross in the name of all the INSEAD Alumni Assocations: A Force for Good.

Any support would be greatly appreciated!

On behalf of the board of the IAA The Netherlands.

Sven Cobben

INSEAD SIN & IN-BOARD Golf Tournament

The traditional annual INSEAD SIN & IN-BOARD Golf Tournament was held on Thursday 9th July 2020 under superb circumstances of the Dutch summer weather. Last year’s winner, Manish Kumar Singh (MBA 2009), hosted a field of contenders at the Eindhovensche Golf, which is one of the leading golf courses in the Netherlands. In spite of, many twist and turns in the organization of the event due to COVID19 pandemic, thanks to the great support from IAA board, the event went on to keep the running legacy.