Promoting inclusive business: What role for business associations and networks?

Companies are increasingly becoming aware of the population segments living at the base of the economic pyramid (BoP) as potentially important customers, diverse new sources of supply, and strategic distribution and retail partners. 

Published: Wed, Feb 10, 2016
Author: Davide Fiedler
Type: Insight

As all of us active in this space believe, inclusive business provides an optimal congruence of private sector and development policy interests and objectives around the Sustainable Development Goals agenda, as this concept can offer “new opportunities for innovation, growth, and competitiveness at the same time as positive social and development impact.” Nonetheless, due to a wide range of barriers, the concept is still far from being a mainstream business practice.

The WBCSD approach

As we are finalizing the session’s details, we thought this would be a good opportunity to share how the specific approach taken by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) - a CEO-led organization of 200 of the world’s largest, forward-thinking companies, with a vision of creating a sustainable future for business, society and the environment – promotes inclusive business.

The term “inclusive business” was coined by the WBCSD in 2005. Ever since, the Council has been engaging business leaders across industries, in a collaborative effort with international organizations, government agencies and its Global Network partners, to scale up action, gain greater insights, and overcome both internal and external barriers to scaling up these ventures around the world.

The WBCSD’s work in the area of inclusive business is built around four pillars:

  1. Illustrating best practices, lessons learned, and success factors
  2. Developing toolkits and training programs to support awareness raising and implementation
  3. Identifying and brokering opportunities for member companies, in close cooperation with partner organizations
  4. Advocating business perspectives to key international platforms and events

My colleague Filippo Veglio, Director of our Social Impact team, will moderate the session in Manila. In preparation for this session, we are also drawing on some interesting thoughts shared last year by the UN Global Compact and the International Chamber of Commerce in the framework of their study titled Scaling up sustainability collaboration: Contributions of business associations and sector initiatives to sustainable development. The latter captures the wide range of opportunities and activities undertaken by business associations in order to support sustainable development. In a nutshell, these include:

  • Facilitating companies’ access to information and knowledge on sustainable development
  • Capacity building for corporate professionals
  • Developing standards and specifications
  • Creating a common voice of business in policy making
  • Fostering and brokering partnerships

Obviously, the match between some of these offerings and the inclusive business-related needs and barriers overlap. Surely there is thus a role for business associations and networks to advance the inclusive business agenda for the benefit of their members and society.

This article was originally posted on The Practitioner Hub for Inclusive Business