"Unrepentant capitalism" can make the world a better place

Capitalism and doing good can and do mix, according to several entrepreneurs who addressed the Good Deals conference on Tuesday 15 November.

In a session entitled The Future of Good Business at the UK's biggest social enterprise, social investment and social innovation event, speakers examined the state of business today.

Martin Leuw, a software entrepreneur who runs social business investor Growth4Good, said: "I'm an unrepentant capitalist, but you can do well by doing good."

He pointed out that there was a direct correlation between growth and doing good. "It's not wholly altruistic", to be a good business, he said. This echoed a comment made by restaurateur Iqbal Wahhab in an earlier session, who pointed out that after he introduced a table in his restaurant Roast that donated its profits to good causes, customers started coming just to eat at that table.

Introducing the session, social entrepreneur Liam Black referred to the collapse of UK high street store BHS and the recent arrest of the man who bought the chain for £1 as an example of "crap business".

But he added: "Out there in the business world there is stuff going on that is more innovative than in the social enterprise world."

Black said Unilever was currently making "an audacious attempt to reinvent what big business is". He also highlighted Nike, Royal DSM, Centrica and Timpson as great examples of businesses that were contributing to society.

This chimed with Leuw's point that "every business has the potential to be a for-profit social business".

And Dan Paskins, senior head of portfolio development at the Big Lottery Fund, said: "Good business has to move from being a niche thing to being everybody's business."