A World of 3 Zeros. Zero net carbon emissions. Zero poverty. Zero unemployment.
Poverty, unemployment, and carbon emissions are global problems. The documentary A World of 3 Zeros explores the ability of social entrepreneurship to address these problems and bring them to zero.
Michel and I founded our production company in 1991. For the following 25 years we were totally focused on making ourselves financially secure while ensuring that our children had everything they needed. Then Michel said:
“Áine, basically all the work we do is helping the already very wealthy become wealthier, shouldn’t we be trying to be useful to people in need”?
For over a year, we reached out to many “doing good organizations” offering our skills. One organization replied, asking us to edit footage and interviews of a Nobel Peace Laureate, from Bangladesh, Professor Yunus on a visit to independent social entrepreneurs in Uganda. We became fascinated by his visionary business ideas, and their efficiency in employing a non-greed based economic model for solving social and environmental problems. By providing sustainable solutions to, plastic waste, access to clean water, empowerment of marginalized communities through agriculture, rice and pineapple farming and bee keeping.
We began documenting other examples, from around the world, implementing this model, that’s neither capitalism nor charity. What we witnessed were views and voices that question the status quo, that foster solidarity and encourage community involvement and commitment for the common good. This type of entrepreneurship was new to us, and we observed that it was the same for many others. From our professional background, of producing commercials, we’ve experienced how the power of film can contribute to initiate action. However, with the documentary we faced two important challenges, first how to present a film about businesses that is artistically moving with encounters that inspire change, because they involve those most affected in the elaboration of possible solutions.
And second, we questioned our eligibility to tell the stories of these changemakers by asking ourselves if we could apply the same economic model to our own business activities, which we then set out to do.
A key figure throughout the documentary is Professor Yunus, and we’ve interview him on many occasions since 2017.
Even with a Nobel Peace Prize and an Olympic Laurel to his name, he’s still often referred to as the "Banker for the Poor". He has revolutionized conventional economic theories through his microfinance ideas and his business practices. As one of the few individuals to have received all three highest US Civilian awards he stands as one of the most influential figures of our time, joining the ranks of icons such as Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jr.
When asked if a documentary could be made about his life’s achievements, and its influence in the current economic system, Professor Yunus reply was.
“I think it would be more useful to make one about many different working examples, there are businesses solving problems all around the world”. He added jovially.
“After all, it’s not all about me”.
This is a collaborative project. With full support from Professor Yunus and many others, we aim to address solutions to three main goals, how to create a world with zero net carbon emissions, zero poverty, and zero unemployment. Professor Yunus explains in depth, that by implementing non-greed business models that involve all stakeholders we can reduce climate warming and other environmental problems, that by removing wealth concentration we can eliminate poverty, and by unleashing an entrepreneurial mindset in all, unemployment will cease to exist as people will become job makers rather than job seekers.
The groundwork for the documentary is based on five decades of Professor Yunus’s experience of solving problems through independent businesses. He explains that it began in the 1970s when Bangladesh was suffering the worst famine history has recorded and he decided to do something to help, even if was just for one person. Through a combination of the power of mobilization in 80,000 villages, and the learnings by working with the poor, mostly women, this laid the foundations of the social business Grameen Bank and its replications around the globe. Each works towards liberating people to seek a better life by creating access to collateral free credit and opportunities though entrepreneurship.
What seemed impossible became possible as this business model proves that the poor are bankable, hardworking, and creative, when the system, in this case the financial system, was changed to serve their needs.
The model for this new type of business was designed by Professor Yunus to widen economic possibilities so that people, everywhere, can get actively involved in creating solutions to problems they care about.
His observations are that humans are both selfish and selfless, and this should reflect in economics. Currently most businesses aim for profit maximization, and many of the worlds’ problems result from this model.
Since the Grameen Bank Professor Yunus as founded and co-founded over 50 other independent social businesses using the same non-dividend for individuals’ model as the banks. They are highly successful and are impacting on millions of lives, especially in rural areas, in a range of sectors, including healthcare, skills and education, agriculture, access to communications, IT tools and solar energy. Invited by young people, parents, teachers, universities, cities & communities, politicians & governments, he travels the globe sharing these experiences, because they work.
In the documentary, we’ve concentrated on examples that could be replicated in other parts of the world as they address problems that are similar and are often interconnected. These examples serve to showcase the tangible impact of this new economic model through interviews conducted in Africa, America, Asia, and Europe. While visiting the different independent businesses in action, we see that each problem is different, hence the business solutions in place also. However, what’s the same everywhere, is that it’s not possible to solve them alone. And, as for most businesses, it starts with an idea, it takes creativity, hard work, and resilience to become sustainable and you learn from the mistakes.
In the Amazonian rain forest a business school is tackling deforestation with local communities while teaching how to reafforest and how to increase biodiversity to create other sources of revenue that replace the actual cattle farming and wood cutting practices. The aim is to massively share this knowledge and tourists are welcome to learn and participate.
A business based in Belgium that uses bees as drones to measure and detect pollutants, working with, corporates, communities, farmers, and hospitals to increase well-being and biodiversity while benefiting all the stakeholders.
Too many athletes after the medals and glory return to live in poverty and a large proportion of these are illiterate. Many non-profit organizations exist to help address problems of poverty; however, they mainly depend on donations. The documentary explores how this new model through independent social entrepreneurship can be implemented by athletes to help them build sustainable businesses and create solutions for themselves and their communities.
In this framework Paris 2024 is the first ever inclusive Olympic Games. This was not imposed on Paris in the pitch process, it was the city’s own initiative and both Professor Yunus and the social business Yunus Sports Hub have been implicated in the ambitions set by hosting this global event since its beginnings in 2018.
Other issues being tackled through businesses, include, empowering individuals and communities through opensource learning skills, the power of sport to tackle problems of skin whitening and problems of education, businesses addressing textile waste, food waste, unemployment in marginalized communities - ex-prisoners, sharing peer knowledge through events, training and financial support for impact, the role of the education system to teach new systems thinking, the role of the health system to provide care for all.
As each protagonist, 26 women and 25 men, featured is the voice of their own story, the documentary aims to be authentic and inspirational to audiences by highlighting that many other ways of doing business both exist and work. Fostering a sense of hope, empowerment as we strive towards creating a world where humanity and nature thrive together.
We hope that the variety of examples will serve to widen horizons, raise questions, and encourage reflection on the challenges posed by the current global context, and the increase in global crises that both feed on each other and are interlinked. Questions such as what our roles are as individuals, community members and business leaders? And how and what can we draw from the benefits of engaging in actions for the common good?
Professor Yunus shares what he has experienced in helping others, is a source of joy, creativity, and sense of achievement. Which he feels is as powerful, if not more so, than making money.
Michel Van der VekenDirector
Muhammad YunusKey Cast"Professor Yunus"
Runtime:1 hour 46 minutes
Completion Date:May 12, 2023
Production Budget:440,000 EUR
Country of Origin:Belgium
Country of Filming:Bangladesh, Belgium, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Senegal
Language:English, French, Thai
Shooting Format:Digital 4K
Áine (onya) Clarke - Born in 1963 in Belfast Northern Ireland.
Graduated from University of Ulster in Environmental Physics in 1987.
Michel Van der Veken - Born in 1961 in Liège Belgium.
Graduated from IAD film school in 1985.
In 1991 Áine and Michel co-founded their owner run independent production company Azimut in Belgium.
Michel is a director and producer for commercials, company films and social entrepreneurship productions.
Áine is a producer and since 2016, she’s a director for social entrepreneurship productions.
Their company’s most awarded work, in commercials was 2007 Cannes winner for KiKi the dog, the Special Jury Award Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film in 2008 for Mompelaar, other awards include a bronze at the New York Corporate Film Festival in 2000.
Since 2016, Áine and Michel made the decision to work principally on productions about and for social businesses and social entrepreneurs, and by this, they actively participate to make these projects both more visible and attractive.
They aim to add a cinematographic and storytelling dimension to this valuable work of providing solutions to social and environmental problems for the collective good.