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Making the Inclusive Business Case
With more knowledge and momentum, making the IB case is easier than ever

Story highlights

Just because inclusive business practitioners have more data, success stories and momentum than ever, doesn’t mean the business case writes itself

I would argue that as the concept of “business with a purpose” takes a turn towards the mainstream, we must use this inertia to push for something more, something better

We are out of time for singular, individualised innovations that celebrate entrepreneurs through the lens of leadership models of the past

Simply put, we need an inclusive business ecosystem designed for collaborative impact, strategic disruption, and scalable business models that can drive innovation at the base of the pyramid

Intro

Making the case for inclusive business is important. There’s no question that whether you are a social entrepreneur pitching a sustainable business idea to investors or an intrapreneur pitching a pilot project to your senior leadership team, effectively making a business case is mission critical. Because of this, we have devoted an entire issue to lessons learned on this topic—soliciting the perspectives of leading inclusive business consultants, marketers, social entrepreneurs, multinational executives, and policy leaders alike.

Two men in a meeting

Making the case for inclusive business. Photo Credit: © GIZ/Dirk Ostermeier

In reading our contributors’ insights, one thing is clear: making the case for inclusion is easier than ever before. What do I mean by this? While businesses once viewed corporate social responsibility as a marketing opportunity and, eventually, a way to mitigate risk—an optional activity—companies now recognise that inclusive business means access to $12 trillion in new markets and the opportunity for competitive advantage. And the tides continue to turn. Jeff Turner, VP of Sustainability for DSM, explains that in his view, “[w]ithin the next ten years, good financial results will have to go hand in hand with purpose, otherwise companies will lose their license to operate.”

Don’t get me wrong.

Just because inclusive business practitioners have more data, success stories, and momentum than ever, doesn’t mean the business case writes itself. Indeed, making the case still requires, as TechnoServe’s Katarina Kahlmann describes it, “a viable business plan with good margins and manageable levels of risk.” But long gone are the days that pitches for “doing good” will get you laughed out of a board room—assuming leadership is paying attention. According to former Unilever CEO Paul Polman, purpose-driven, multi-stakeholder models are “…the only way of doing business if you want to deliver long-term, sustainable growth.”

Hands

Purpose-driven multi-stakeholder models are key to achieving sustainable growth. Photo Credit: Pexels.com

So, where does that leave us?

I would argue that as the concept of “business with a purpose” takes a turn towards the mainstream, we must use this inertia to push for something more, something better. Afterall, despite our progress, achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals will require us to overcome a $2 trillion funding gap, without which we cannot be successful. If we are to answer to the greatest challenges of our time, we will need to develop a strategy to focus our collective energies.

Simply put, we need an inclusive business ecosystem designed for collaborative impact, strategic disruption, and scalable business models that can drive innovation at the base of the pyramid (BoP).

A recent article by Greg Coussa in Stanford Social Innovation Review made the argument that without drastic improvements (by way of growth capital and “alumni accelerators” focused on scaling, for example), “the do-good industry will never make the exponential leaps needed to bring social innovations to millions of people.” Contributor Marc Blumenthal from the Social Venture Foundation’s EndPoverty Fund, and others as well, have identified this very same challenge. In fact, to get resources from Blumenthal’s fund, you must be able to demonstrate how your model could scale to impact millions.

market_credit_giz_Michael_Tsegaye

Inclusive business models need to be scalable in order to reach millions of people living at the base of the pyramid. Photo Credit: © GIZ/Michael Tsegaye

It is essential, therefore, that we learn from the successes and failures of others in the social entrepreneurship space, and we must commit to—and demand from one another—that we build on those learnings. We are out of time for singular, individualised innovations that celebrate entrepreneurs through the lens of leadership models of the past. By valuing new forms of leadership and investing in tech-enabled hubs—like those social entrepreneur Jack Sim argued for in the October 2018 issue of this magazine—we can replicate some of the “4,000 proven social entrepreneurial business solutions” and collaborate to scale impact.

Man giving box to another man

Inclusive business needs collaboration and innovation. Photo Credit: Pexels.com

We will know we have been successful when BoP businesses and their innovations are leapfrogging the developed world and paving the way for the equality and environmental sustainability our people and planet so desperately need.

After gaining insight, tools, and inspiration from each of this issue’s contributors, check out the final how to piece by Yana Kakar, Global Managing Partner at Dalberg Advisors, and—together—let’s get to work.

Next steps for entrepreneurs
Practical tools for businesses
Dana Gulley
Dana joined iBAN as the Editor-in-Chief of its online magazine, CLUED-iN, in July 2018. She is the founder and lead consultant at Third Peak Solutions, a firm that advises businesses and nonprofits on developing innovative strategies to solve our world’s most pressing challenges. A trained mediator with a background in natural resources and business administration, Dana has spent her career building cross-sector partnerships to tackle both energy and water issues.

Interview

Planetary boundaries among reasons we need inclusive business, says former Unilever CEO

Polman is clear-sighted that the world needs inclusive growth, and it needs it now. Citing widespread damage to our environment and gross inequality, Polman describes the business success Unilever has seen over the past ten years using a purpose-driven,…
iBAN
Table of contents

graphic summary

GRAPHIC SUMMARY

A visual summary of the key challenges entrepreneurs need to consider when it comes to making the inclusive business case. Learn more about these aspects by reading this fourth edition of the newly developed online magazine on inclusive business!

editorial

UNLOCKING THE POTENTIAL OF INCLUSIVE BUSINESS REQUIRES COLLECTIVE ACTION: LEARNING FROM OUR SUCCESSES AND FAILURES TO MAKE THE CASE AND DRIVE SCALE

Through her experience developing an agricultural inclusive business in Nigeria, Nwuneli has seen how her company’s commitment to “doing well and doing good” creates a competitive advantage and drives impact. She offers four key insights for making the case for inclusion.

Ndidi O. Nwuneli

featured story

As inclusive business trends towards mainstream, we must move the target

While inclusive business might not yet be at a tipping point, making the business case certainly has gotten easier—so, let’s use that momentum to strategize, collaborate, and scale for impact.

Dana Gulley

Planetary boundaries among reasons we need inclusive business, says former Unilever CEO

Polman is clear-sighted that the world needs inclusive growth, and it needs it now. Citing widespread damage to our environment and gross inequality, Polman describes the business success Unilever has seen over the past ten years using a purpose-driven, multi-stakeholder model.

Inclusive business creates opportunity at every level

Kahlmann shares insights on how the inclusive business case has evolved over time—from social responsibility and mitigating risk to the opportunity for growing profitability. She offers specific advice for social entrepreneurs, like the importance of focusing on small pilots to start.

Finding and articulating your purpose to make the case to your customers

Hyman’s marketing firm helps mission-driven companies drive growth by focusing their story-line on a single framework for their brand. Her advice for entrepreneurs who are pitching their businesses? Among other things, show your heart.

Embedding sustainability through purpose, transparency, and commitment

Meezan shares the story of Interface, a company whose purpose-led journey has driven them to be leaders in sustainability across their industry. She offers inspiration and wise words for intrapreneurs who want to effect change in their own organizations.

Policy changes have big impact on inclusive business in the Philippines

Through Asec. Fe’s work with the Board of Investments, the Philippines has prioritised inclusive business, making it a “pioneer in the region.” Governments can create the enabling environment for inclusive business, but as Asec. Fe explains, policy change takes patience and perseverance.

Companies are proving business growth alongside increased value for stakeholders

Turner discusses DSM´s purpose-led strategy, which places sustainability and inclusivity at its core. Without such an approach, in the next ten years, Turner argues that businesses will lose their license to operate.

Value generation and competitive advantage are key to making the case

Social entrepreneur Kamal Quadir launched bKash—a mobile money platform—just under a decade ago. Its impact on Bangladesh has been dramatic, with 31 million customers utilising the service today. Quadir offers advice to other social entrepreneurs looking to make an impact on society.

Scaling best practices to sustainably lift the livelihoods of the poor

Blumenthal often has to explain what makes the Social Ventures Foundation’s EndPoverty Fund different from other social impact funds. He details his foundation’s unique approach, like focusing on scale through social and micro-franchising and offers his perspective on the inclusive business space.

Beyond the Business Case - From the Why to the How

Kakar and Beard share important lessons learned on how to implement inclusive business ideas—from identifying a need to adjusting your business model and identifying key partners for success.