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.
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.
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.”
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.”
Purpose-driven multi-stakeholder models are key to achieving sustainable growth. Photo Credit: Pexels.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
Book: Mid-Course Correction: Toward a Sustainable Enterprise: The Interface Model - written by Interface Founder Ray Anderson
You are engaged with inclusive business and looking for support and collaboration? Find new partners in the Intermediary Database.