I am in love with Hal Taussig. So are millions of Americans who fell in love when he was profiled today on NBC's Today Show. Paul Newman fell in love with Hal too, presenting Hal’s business, Untours, with the first Most Generous Business in America award.
Hal takes no salary, lives with his wife Norma on social security, and until a recent stroke, rode his bicycle to work every day. (Note: 30 years ago Hal traded his last car with a hitchhiker for a bike.) Furthermore, for nearly the last 20 years, Hal has donated all the profits from his successful travel business to a company foundation dedicated to investing in businesses that serve the poor.
The Untours Foundation has invested in fair trade handicrafts in Vietnam; they have invested in landless peasants in Brazil; they have invested in micro-entrepreneurs in Chester, Pennsylvania. Hal did this before he’d ever heard of microfinance. Hal did this before anyone had dreamed of impact investing.
Hal doesn’t believe he has anything to teach us. He's wrong. Here’s a short story about Hal.
Hal invested the $250,000 award he received from Paul Newman to help another business get through a life-threatening period.
Hal’s wife Norma had been home-bound for some time after a stroke. Her home care nurse worked for a local company called Home Care Associates (HCA). The company was in danger of failing and as a result, Norma’s nurse and scores of other low income women of color would lose their jobs. Hal wondered if the nurses like Norma’s couldn’t run the company better themselves.
And with a $250,000 loan from the Untours Foundation, HCA turned itself into a worker-owned cooperative and has been thriving ever since. HCA provides essential home health care services in predominantly low income communities and the people who do this essential work of compassion and caring for those with the least among us are the worker-owners of the business.
In a fitting tribute to Hal’s vision, HCA was recently honored on the B Corp Best for the World list recognizing those companies using their businesses to create the most positive impact in the world.
Hal is an inspiration. Today is the 20th anniversary of the Untours Foundation. Hal wouldn’t want you to know his name; he doesn’t think he has anything to teach any of us. Few, if any, of us can be Hal. But perhaps today we can all be inspired to take a minute to think of one thing you can do today to use business as a greater force for good.
I love you Hal. Thank you.
This post was written by Jay Coen Gilbert, Cofounder B Lab