By Sarah Hidey, JVA Consulting
Guinness—the beer of all beers and staple of any Irish pub. Millions of people around the world love Guinness—demonstrated by the 1.8 billion glasses consumed each year (that’s 10 million a DAY!). What most of us beer-lovers do not know is the incredible philanthropic legacy of its founder, Arthur Guinness, or Guinness’ support of social entrepreneurs around the world. There is, indeed, a reason to raise our glass to Guinness.
Arthur Guinness was a young entrepreneur with a love for brewing beer. But he was also a social reformer, who was inspired by the social teachings of John Wesley (father of the United Methodist Church) to use his wealth and talents to make the world a better place (described in a recent book entitled God and Guinness). Personally, he generously supported public health and religious causes—including a local hospital.
In addition to Arthur’s personal philanthropy, he ran his company in a radical and generous way—investing in his workers by providing a higher-than average salary, access to decent housing and medical care—benefits that were unheard of in the 18th century. These benefits continued, and by the 20th century workers had access to a 24-hour medical clinic, 24-hour dental care and onsite massage therapy! Guinness also provided libraries, reading rooms, athletic facilities, housing, schooling fees for children, pension, paid funeral expenses and trainings. The benefits provided to Guinness employees in the last few centuries rival the amenities Google offers its workforce today. Talk about a great company to work for!
Today, although a larger distribution company owns Guinness, the honor and support of Arthur’s commitment to philanthropy and entrepreneurship continues to impact people around the globe. In 2009, the Arthur Guinness Fund for Social Entrepreneurs was born to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Guinness. Partnered with Ashoka and Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, Guinness is investing in social entrepreneurs (people with “business heads and social hearts”) who are developing innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing social problems.
One of last year’s Guinness Fund “winners” is from Ghana. Considering that three of the top five markets for Guinness are in Africa, I was excited to see Guinness investing in social enterprises benefitting this continent. With support from the Arthur Guinness Fund, Relief International is tackling the threat of waterborne disease by working with local distributing agents and retailers to provide 15,000 filters at affordable market prices to provide over 105,000 people with access to clean drinking water, as illustrated by this video.
Guinness supports dozens of other social entrepreneurs around the world, providing needed capital for businesses addressing health, disabilities and economic development. Every one of these social enterprises gives me another reason to raise my glass to Guinness! Cheers!