BLYDE WAKE-UP CALLS
5 BURNING QUESTIONS TO KOEN THE, CEO & CO-FOUNDER OF LENDAHAND
The past years have laid bare many truths about our current model of capitalism — the severe income inequality and the belief that human lives and environmental impact are expendable for better profit margins. The changemakers in the growing Certified B Corporation community are demanding an end to the myth that profits must come at the expense of purpose, and environmental and social care. It’s time to wake up, it’s time for action.
At Blyde, we question the status quo. We believe in the power of the collective, in taking a stand and inspiring people by showing what can and must be changed. In the Wake-Up Calls, Blyde stirs up hunger for positive change. We listen to several B Corp voices who talk about their call to action for companies around the globe today. By letting people from different perspectives and business speak, we would like to underline the important role of business in this decade of action. ‘On stage’ now: Koen The, CEO and Co-founder of Lendahand.
Lendahand has been a purpose-driven company from its start in 2013. What was your actual wake-up call for contributing to a better world and the reason for starting your business?
I started my career in banking straight out of college, as I was fascinated by the dynamics of financial markets. Additionally, I have this thing for technology and how it can improve (and unfortunately sometimes also lower) the quality of life. I guess, as a Xennial, I had an analogue childhood but a digital adulthood. Therefore, I’m in a good position to assess the pros and cons of the digitalization of our lives. My interest in finance and technology really came together when it hit me that fintech can help to solve big global problems. A lot of the big problems we face today are born out of inequality. Smarts and entrepreneurship are evenly spread across the globe and gender, but the necessary funding to start and grow a business is not. Our mission at Lendahand is to fight poverty by investing in people and businesses. We want to make the world a level playing field.
What might have been a natural step for Lendahand, is not always the obvious step for other companies. What would you say is your call to action for companies around the globe?
There is a lot of talk about implementation of ESGs, etc. That’s definitely a good start. But companies should take it one step further and not only think about their policies and current footprint. They should challenge themselves to rethink what success looks like. It’s perfectly fine to optimize Return on Equity. But how do you define ‘return’? Please go ahead and maximize shareholders’ value, but think hard about the definition of ‘value’. At what point can you really say that you’ve successfully maximized value for your shareholders? Surely value cannot be measured in money terms only, just as national prosperity cannot be measured by GDP alone. I guess what I’m trying to say is: don’t merely add (impact) targets, but redefine your current targets. Lendahand also has a long way to go in that respect.
The Sustainable Development Goals are an important blueprint in preserving our planet and making it a better place. Which of these goals calls you the most and why?
For me the most important goal is SDG 1: No poverty. At the beginning of this century, a large research project was carried out, where tens of thousands of poor people were asked what they hated about being poor. One of the things that kept coming back was ‘social isolation’. Many poor people feel like the world is not for them. That no one outside of their circle cares about them and their lives don’t really matter. Poverty is not only about not always having enough to eat, or wishing for more financial security, it’s also about the lack of dignity and the feeling that your life is not precious.
Call me a changemaker, let’s fast-forward to 2030. What have you achieved?
Eh, no, please don’t call me a changemaker. I have the honor to lead the Lendahand team, and it’s the company that wants (and is able) to make large scale changes. The whole is definitely larger than the sum of its parts here. 2030 is the year that we should’ve achieved the Sustainable Development Goals. By then, I truly hope that we’re able to say that Lendahand has managed to provide the right tools to citizens, allowing them to help achieve the SDGs using their money.
If you could invite one company to join the B Corp community, what company would that be and why?
Only one bank in the Netherlands – Triodos –is a B Corp. It’s time for the large Dutch banks to follow. They should become too sustainable to fail.
Hungry for more wake-up calls? Read the interview with Lianne Kappert, Head of People & Culture at Too Good to Go here.