There is a growing need—and opportunity—to define the terms and guidelines for IB. This can help companies self-assess, drive investment, and grow partnerships with governments, NGOs and other companies
Companies and governments can work together to shape the “enabling environment” that IB operates within. Promotion, recognition, and policy reform in support of IB can have tangible benefits for companies
While it is important for governments to engage companies when doing this work, companies, too, must learn to engage governments directly. Public-private partnerships can create a win-win-win for companies, governments, and our shared SDG agenda
Through a traditional business lens, government regulation conjures some negative connotations, but alongside the era of inclusive business must also come the era of reimagining and celebrating these crucial partnerships
No inclusive business entrepreneur is immune from this opportunity: schedule a meeting with elected officials in the community, country, or region where you work today
Increasingly, entrepreneurs, investors, and every day consumers are looking for ways to put their money where their mouth is to address poverty, inequality, climate change, and environmental degradation. We see this in the growth of inclusive businesses (IB), the mainstreaming of Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) considerations in investing, and the certifications and other visual cues that companies are sending to consumers to differentiate their goods and services as good for people and our planet. Meanwhile, government, too, is working tirelessly to develop policies that aim to address the very same social and environmental challenges... So, while “many entrepreneurs understand policymaking to be a cumbersome and long winding process with very uncertain outcomes,” as editorial author Markus Dietrich from the Inclusive Business Action Network concedes, the contributors in this issue of CLUED-iN offer compelling examples and arguments for why—and examples of how—policymakers and entrepreneurs are collaborating to make our shared vision a reality.
Shaping the enabling environment for inclusive business. Photo Credit: © GIZ/Paul Hahn
Amid an increase in interest and development of IBs, there is a growing need to name the terms that define them and develop guidelines that can lead investors and potential partners to those companies which are walking the inclusive walk. In announcing a soon-to-be-released set of “operational guidelines,” Sahba Sobhani, acting head of Business Call to Action at UNDP and his colleague Ivan Lukas explain that in developing the guidelines in partnership with the Inclusive Business Action Network, they aimed to answer the question “… what constitutes truly inclusive businesses?” Others, too, are interested in developing guidelines. For the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), “it is important that any new investments are adapted to local considerations and fulfil the “triple bottom line” of being socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable.” This is why, as authors Grahame Dixie of Grow Asia and Carin Smaller of International Institute of Sustainable Development explain, the ASEAN Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI) Guidelines—10 issue-specific principles to guide investment in the region—are so important for entrepreneurs and investors alike.
The ASEAN Responsible Agricultural Investment Guidelines reflect the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental sustainability, as Carin Smaller and Grahame Dixie explain in their blog post. Photo Credit: Grow Asia/International Institute of Sustainable Development
With efforts underway by governments, regional associations, and international organizations to define and promote inclusive business principles, it is crucial that entrepreneurs engage in the process. In fact, when it comes to these efforts, Marta Pérez Cusó, Economic Affairs Officer for United Nations ESCAP, believes that “[i]nvolving the private sector from the beginning is crucial.” In working together, companies and governments can shape the “enabling environment” within their specific country—and regional—contexts that supports inclusive business. What does this look like? Cusó explains that governments can build awareness about inclusive business, promote it through accreditation and recognition, and even support it through tax incentives, training and mentorship programmes, for example. These government actions can have real tangible benefits for companies and the SDGs.
Charlie Miller was the former Director of National Programmes at Power for All, a multi-stakeholder coalition of 300 organizations that are working to accelerate the growth of distributed renewable energy (DRE) markets to end energy poverty by 2030. The campaign—which has achieved great success, for example in Sierra Leone where the import of solar home products grew from just 2,000 prior to the campaign and over 20,000 eighteen months later—is multi-faceted but has focused on facilitating mechanisms for public-private collaboration, such as by developing task forces. According to Miller, “policy and regulation remain an under-recognised part of the business ecosystem.” He goes on to explain that the campaign aimed to get “the private sector into a position where it was able to create and maintain its own enabling environment.”
Power for All aims to transform the energy sector towards decentralised renewables via multi-stakeholder cooperation. Photo Credit: Power for All
For Matthew Davie, Chief Strategy Officer at Kiva, the big goal is to “end financial exclusion globally, by bringing the 1.7 billion people who are outside of the formal financial sector into the formal financial sector.” This mission has led them, too, to Sierra Leone, where they are implementing the Kiva Protocol, a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership to removes the barriers that have kept the country’s unbanked from accessing finance in the past. Davie explains, “to really boil it down, the money exists for global financial inclusion…I think [public-private partnerships are] the only sustainable model for to make this type of systems change on a global scale.”
The Kiva Protocol, a unique public-private partnership, aims at providing access to finance for the unbanked in Sierra Leone. Photo Credit: Kiva
Systems change on a global scale requires efforts of both public and private actors. Photo Credit: Kiva
Davie and Miller are not the only two who believe we must bring policy and business innovation together. There are further examples of this kind of collaboration leading to impact. Sir Gordon Conway, Agricultural Ecologist Professor at Imperial College London, is a member of the Malabo Montpellier Panel, which is tackling the massive issue of food waste. The panel “identifies the most important institutional innovations and policy and programme interventions that can be replicated and scaled up by other countries.” From there, entrepreneurs are needed to figure out how best to cooperate with governments, identify where interventions can be complementary, and focus on developing those public-private partnerships that can be truly catalytic.
Developing catalytic partnerships between inclusive business and governments requires innovative ideas that can be replicated by others. Photo Credit: © GIZ/Thomas Amm
As an entrepreneur, we hope you are inspired by this issue of CLUED-iN. Check out In Your Words, which includes portraits and quotes from stakeholders who participated in a Policy Roadshow to share best practices for this important work. Look up your elected officials where you work and reach out. Setup a meeting. Figure out how you can work together to make our shared dreams a reality. And in the words of France’s High Commissioner for Social and Solidarity Economy and Social Innovation, by working together, you can help ensure “that public policies become more ambitious, but also more flexible, more humble and more agile to adapt to the developments of social innovation.” This is what the SDG agenda demands.