How I realised the importance of investing in early childhood

Published October 1, 2015 – by Henri Le Bienvenu

I am a businessman and member of Peru 2021, a non-profit civil association led by socially committed entrepreneurs to promote corporate social responsibility. A growing number of businesses in Peru are funding social projects and committing to build a more sustainable society. However, most of their investment is focused on helping young adults rather than very young children.

My wife, an early childhood teacher, started to work on a project funded by The Bernard van Leer Foundation. One day she invited me to a meeting with Leonardo Yánez, the Foundation’s representative for Latin America, to talk about the business case for investing in early childhood development. It was the first time I had been asked to make the connection between my own business sense and my wife’s work, and looking back I must have come off as completely ignorant. At the end of the meeting Leonardo told me he was going to invite me to the Ready Nation Early Childhood Investments Summit.

The summit was an eye opener for me. I had never realised that investing in the first years of life was so important for the development of the child’s brain. The data and statistics were very solid and clear. Testimonials, presentations, expert opinions, participants’ comments and workshops left me – as a businessman – in no doubt about the importance of investing in the early years.

I also learned a valuable lesson on a personal level, as a grandfather. Since the summit, I have assumed a more active role in playing with, caring for, reading to and spending more time with my grandchildren.

In October, Peru 2021 held its 20th international symposium on corporate social responsibility, and for the first time we included a presentation on early childhood development, by the Foundation’s Leontien Peeters. The audience response confirmed that business people were open to becoming more involved in early childhood, for the sake of their businesses and especially their employees. We know that working to increase investment in early childhood development will be a long term effort, but we are convinced it is something we need to do.

Author: Henri Le Bienvenu, General Manager of Peru 2021, is an expert in Social Responsibility studies at The Prince of Wales’s Business & the Environment Programme (BEP) from the University of Cambridge.