A Mexican Consultancy’s Business Approach to Development
By Jody Nesbitt on 17 June 2009 - Devex.com
Enterprising Solutions Global Consulting advises on effective microfinance strategies as part of a joint project with Germany's KFW Bankengruppe and the U.N. Development Program in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by: ESG
Cuernavaca, Mexico might not be the first place you would look for a global development consultant. But for over a decade now, corporations and development agencies from Kenya to Columbia have been turning to the Mexico-based Enterprising Solutions Global Consulting Inc. for expert advice.
ESG has worked in more than 60 countries in the fields of corporate social responsibility, social investment, community development and microfinance. Its enterprise-led approaches to sustainable business provide a unique development perspective.
"We started with the original idea of providing consulting services to companies that wanted to help resolve social and environmental problems through enterprising solutions-business," said ESG Managing Partner Marc de Sousa-Shields.
"Working with an NGO, at the end of the day, you get a pat on the back and a T-shirt that says ‘nice job,'" he added. "We had all built NGOs from scratch, so we decided to try the private sector model because at the time, emerging business could be catalytic in development."
ESG was founded in 1998. In addition to its Cuernavaca headquarters, the firm now has offices in New York City and in Burnaby, Canada.
"At the time, 10 years back … it was fairly crude what companies were doing to try and improve their environmental records," de Sousa-Shields noted.
While microfinance comprises the bulk of its business, ESG was at the forefront of the recent corporate social responsibility and sustainable development movements.
"Certainly, involvement in the environmentally responsible business was when we really ran into the sense that you could establish highly successful, highly valuable businesses," de Sousa-Shields said. "That did more than just avoid negative environmental responses, but we're proactive in maximizing the positive."
ESG's program in the Democratic Republic of Congo provides an example of the organization's enterprising approach.
In the country's volatile eastern region, ESG is collaborating with Germany's KFW Bankengruppe and the United Nations Development Program on a groundbreaking microfinance initiative.
"When we arrived, it was the frontier of microfinance; there was not much going on the ground, despite the fact that it's a large country with a large population," de Sousa-Shields said. "Now the institutions have half a million clients."
While not directly lending funds, ESG renders advice on microfinance strategies that are most effective in the region. Despite violence forcing its temporary removal, ESG now has 20 long-term technical assistance specialists providing institutional support. Experts collaborate with central bank officials to put in place proper financial regulation. They also work with the country's Department of Economic Development to ensure policies and programs promote an inclusive financial system.
"It's very much an extraction mineral-driven economy. So we are gearing up to help the institutions, as the effects of falling commodity prices hit their economy," de Sousa-Shields said.
A world away in Eastern Europe, ESG has a far different project under way.
Bringing together managers from more than 60 companies in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, ESG provides training in CSR strategy and project management. A separate presentation for more than 25 CEOs in the same countries addressed the strategic value of corporate social responsibility.
"One of the first things we look at is the competing use of resources - what is that balance?" de Sousa-Shields said. "Companies that are more sophisticated in the field of corporate social responsibility are trying to figure out how they can do things associated with their core business that will minimize the negative and maximize the positive environmental and social [impact] while growing profits."
By expanding commerce and maximizing the positive development impact, ESG strives to demonstrate that the business of good business has universal value beyond a pat on the back.
* Name: Enterprising Solutions Global Consulting Inc.
* Founded: 1998
* Type: Consulting firm
* Mission: To help clients "maximize the development impact and economic performance of their project and business."
* Director/managing partner: Marc de Sousa-Shields
* Headquarters: Cuernavaca, Mexico
* Opportunities: http://recruit.esglobal.com/recruit/beta