Business for Purpose

By Audette Exel AO, Founder and Chair, Adara Group

A little boy runs past with his brother on his back, laughing madly. He is curious to see what these visitors to his small Nepali village are up to. It’s early in the morning, but already the village is alive. Further down the hill, a man is already digging in his garden. A woman is shuffling chickens out of the way, and trying to get her three young children to put on their shoes and go to school.

The village, which is built on a steep hill is little more than rows of temporary dwellings fashioned out of sheets of tin provided to give the community shelter following the earthquake that destroyed every building in 2015.

Guy Fowler looks around, and takes in the whole scene.

“It’s very… humbling,” he says.

It’s an odd connection that he feels to this place – the community of Ghyangfedi in Nepal that the Adara Group has been working with and supporting since the devastating 2015 Nepal earthquake. In his normal life, Guy Fowler is one of Australia’s leading investment bankers, negotiating deals in the country’s most prestigious board rooms and leading some of the nation’s biggest financial mandates as the Chairman of Corporate Client Solutions for UBS Australasia. In addition to that role, using all his years of experience and deep financial skills, Guy is also a founding Panel Member of Adara’s Corporate Advisory business, advising our corporate clients on complex commercial issues and transactions. Panel Members offer their mastery and time to our business as volunteers, and as a result generate millions in corporate advisory revenue for our development work worldwide.

It is just two years ago that I launched Adara’s latest business, Adara Partners, and now close to two decades that I have had the joy of running corporate advisory business solely for the purpose of creating revenue for people living in poverty across the world, through the work of our international non-government organisation. I can speak firsthand to the power and the promise of business to achieve social good, and the burning desire of so many in the business community to use their skills and mastery for a higher purpose – even in seemingly unlikely sectors like investment banking. Goal 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) speaks right to this point: focusing on partnerships to achieve the Goals. At Adara we know first-hand the incredible power of connecting the heads and the hearts of the private sector to the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our planet.

As we think about the SDGs and the huge investment needed to reach them, I can’t emphasise enough how powerful “business for purpose” and the private sector can be. In 2014, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) stated that to achieve the SDGs in key sectors by 2030, annual investments made in developing countries would need to total US$3.3 to $4.5 trillion per annum. Of that, they suggested that there was a funding gap was $2.5 trillion per annum, and that public funding would not be sufficient to bridge it.

There is huge opportunity here. Through our model, Adara has demonstrated that it is possible to use the construct and skills of business to help the world realise the SDGs. Over 20 years, by running corporate advisory businesses hand-in-hand with an international development organisation, we have reached some of the most remote and needy communities in the world to make sure they have access to good quality health and education services and their children are safe from trafficking. We have partnered with amazing doctors and nurses to save maternal and newborn lives in low resource settings. We have worked alongside the giants of global health to create technologies to help babies breathe. And we have stood with communities devastated by natural disasters, Ebola epidemics and the scourge of HIV/AIDS.

And Adara is just one example, one model. In the last couple of decades, the innovation and entrepreneurship that lies at the core of so many great businesses has unleashed a meteor shower of models and examples of the power of the private sector to support positive change. From leaders of the large corporate world such as Paul Polman of Unliever, to the smallest new companies in the BCorp movement, we are seeing a real time demonstration of all the ways that the private sector can be used to create social good for communities across the world. We are watching the uncapping of the real potential of business, at last. I’ve heard from some small businesses that have benefited from this that they also decided to look into time tracking software to improve accuracy to improve business efficiency so their organization can develop to the point where they can one day give back like some of these larger corporations have.

Back in Ghyangfedi, Guy looks around at the land for the new school that will go on to provide life-changing educational opportunities for 300 children. Because of his work as an Adara Panel member, he gets to be a part of this exciting project, and many others. It is a true bridging of worlds. He says:

This is the highest and best use of what I have to offer. If I can use my time and generate investment banking type fees that go directly to Adara, that’s the biggest contribution I can make.”

Guy scans the horizon again. “This work is extraordinary.”


The Adara Group has two quite different parts, but one united purpose – to support people in poverty. The first part is an international development organisation called Adara Development. The second part is two Australia-based corporate advisory businesses, Adara Advisors and Adara Partners.

The Adara businesses are “for purpose” rather than for profit. Their sole objective is to fund Adara Development’s administration and emergency project costs. This allows 100% of all other donations received by Adara Development to go directly to project-related costs.

Adara is focussed on improving health and education for women, children and communities living in poverty. We are experts in maternal, newborn and child health; and remote community development. We reach tens of thousands of people living in poverty each year. Our work has two pillars – best practice service and knowledge sharing.

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