Vision 2050 of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) speaks of 9 billion people living well within the limits of the planet, requiring the basic needs of all to be met and billions being lifted out of poverty. Inclusive business, a term coined by the WBCSD, aims to expand access to goods, services and livelihood opportunities for low-income communities.
There are numerous examples of such commercially viable solutions. WBCSD member companies across all sectors are actively testing and rolling out activities in this domain, most notably by engaging independent entrepreneurs that distribute and sell products in hard-to-reach areas, to sourcing raw materials from small-scale producers, to facilitating financial transactions via mobile phones, to supporting the development of local enterprises. But the key question, as in many other areas of the sustainability debate, remains the following: How do we scale up?
The session featured some introductory remarks by the following senior representatives from the WBCSD membership:
- Roberto Salas, President, GrupoNueva & Chief Executive Officer, Masisa (see photo below) – Mr. Salas is also the Chair of the WBCSD’s Development Focus Area
- Brian Dames, Chief Executive Officer, Eskom
- Nazeeb Arif, Vice President, Communications, ITC Limited
- Kersti Strandqvist, Senior Vice President, Corporate Sustainability and Public Affairs, SCA
The remarks were followed by a lively discussion with some 50 attendees from various WBCSD members and Regional Network partners. Here are the main conclusions, summarized in 6 bullet points:
- Business cannot succeed in societies that
fail and therefore has a vested interest in creating social value and contributing to equitable growth. To reach
scale, the business contribution needs to be captured and recognized in the
valuation of companies.
- Inclusive business is about creating sustainable livelihoods. It is not about fighting for a larger share of a small wallet – but about increasing the size of the wallet. We need to bring together our collective experiences to make good inclusive business practice the new norm.
- Inclusive business initiatives require long-term views within companies. It is therefore essential to create institutions that last in time, rather than just individual projects, thereby building an ecosystem where business can thrive and create social capital at scale.
- Business needs to take advantage of the opportunity to shape the post-2015 development agenda by actively engaging in the relevant international processes shaping the work of establishing a new development vision for the world as the Millennium Development Goals targets, focused on combating poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination against women, expire in 2015.
- Developing social capital requires localizing
solutions. There is high potential in partnerships with local government and
regulators to find customized solutions that most notably involve small and
medium enterprises as well as female entrepreneurs.
- Measuring and reporting on socio-economic impacts is not only about numbers, it is about building credibility and trust by reporting on failures, learnings, and challenges, not only on success stories.
The WBCSD team in Geneva will integrate the findings of these and other discussions held in Seoul into its 2013 work program. Watch this space for updates on our program goals for 2013!
More information on the WBCSD’s work in inclusive business