Leading Sustainable Organizations
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In 2007, the release of the first iPhone made headlines around the world. In that same year, another new mobile technology was also rolled out to considerably less fanfare. Like the iPhone, it revolutionized the concept of a phone, tapping into latent demand and disrupting both its sector and previously unrelated industries. This pioneer achieved unprecedented market dominance and popularized a service appropriate for billions of mobile phone users.
The disruptor flipped Apple’s strategy on its head: Rather than pursuing the high-end, their market lived on less than $2 per day. The service was developed and launched far from the denizens of Silicon Valley by Safaricom in Kenya. Called M-Pesa — “M” for mobile and “Pesa,” the Swahili word for money — they created one of the earliest mobile money platforms, seven years before Apple Pay.
M-Pesa found an opportunity for abundance by solving chronic financial services problems for nearly three-quarters of the Kenyan population that didn’t or couldn’t use banks to house their money. The pent-up demand was enormous, the growth explosive. M-Pesa now has 20 million customers and over 70% market share. Transactions passing through the service represent more than 40% of Kenya’s GDP. By meeting the needs of people at the base of the pyramid, M-Pesa built a profitable, double-digit growth business while addressing chronic economic and social problems for their community.
M-Pesa’s model has gone global. A 2014 industry report identified 255 mobile money services available in 89 countries. Despite capturing only 8% of mobile accounts, monthly global transactions in December 2014 were $16.3 billion. The growth opportunity is staggering.
Merging Sustainability and Strategy with the Abundance Cycle
M-Pesa found abundance with simple mobile financial services that reduce transaction costs, bolster financial security, improve food access, and spark grassroots economic expansion. M-Pesa is a remarkable story, and one that is mirrored by abundance trailblazers across industries. These enterprises build virtuous cycles where solving ecological problems and building resilient communities opens new markets and strengthens competitive advantage. While sustainability may seem amorphous, adopting an abundant perspective (Figure 1) provides concrete economic, social, and environmental objectives provoking new questions and unleashing new possibilities.