Inclusive Business panel discussion in Asia-Pacific Business Forum
To meet the ambitions of the SDGs, we need inclusive businesses as well as responsible businesses if the principle of “leave no one behind” is to be realized. Inclusive businesses provide goods, services, and livelihoods - on a commercially viable basis - to people living at the base of the economic pyramid.
Inclusive businesses go beyond being a responsible business, as they purposefully target the base of the economic pyramid. Inclusive businesses are different from corporate social responsibility, as inclusive business models are integral part of a firm’s core activity.
Fundamentally, inclusive business is about connecting those at the base of the pyramid with markets.
Mark Matthews from Business for Development pointed out that establishing and, more importantly, sustaining inclusive business requires partnerships that share a long-term vision of supporting social development while remaining a business. Such partnerships are largely based on trust and must seek to achieve social returns in the long term rather than economic returns in the short-term.
While inclusive business is a market-based activity, governments can play a critical role in supporting inclusive business through different means: generating awareness on inclusive business and their business case, recognizing inclusive business through awards or accreditation, providing tax incentives, or facilitating skills development and coaching for developing inclusive business models. Melanie Moleño discussed how the Board of Investment of the Philippines, a pioneer country in promoting inclusive business accredited inclusive business and provide them with tax incentives.
ESCAP, in partnership with Inclusive Business Action Network or iBAN, is supporting the growth of inclusive business in South-East Asia. In 2019, ESCAP jointly with iBAN will be conducting three national landscape studies in Cambodia, Viet Nam and Malaysia and providing advisory services to the Philippines to support the implementation of their national policy on inclusive business.
Other UN organisations, in particular UNDP’s Business Call to Action, as well as the Asian Development Bank and APEC have supported inclusive business in Asia and the Pacific.
Two call for actions emerged from this discussion. First, to explore the opportunities for promoting inclusive business in the Pacific, including at the policy and technical level. Secondly, for private sector actors to self-reflect to what extent their business is inclusive and what opportunities they may have to develop inclusive business model.