The term inclusive business was coined by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) in 2005. It refers to sustainable business solutions that go beyond philanthropy and expand access to goods, services, and livelihood opportunities for low-income communities in commercially viable ways.
Inclusive business leads to the creation of employment opportunities for low-income communities – either directly or through companies’ value chains as suppliers, distributors, retailers and service providers. Alternatively, companies can develop ways to supply affordable products and services to meet basic needs for food, water, sanitation, housing and health care. Or they can develop innovative business models to enhance access to key development enablers such as energy, communications, financing and insurance.
In essence, inclusive business models try to find synergies between development goals and the company’s core business operations. Sound inclusive models can deliver higher socio-economic value for communities, and presents an exciting opportunity for the private sector because it is good for business. A variety of commercial returns–market entry, market share, secure supply chains, product line innovation, competitive advantage–all help to build market value.
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.
Click through the presentation below for an overview on the WBCSD's work in this domain.