Policy as a worthwhile investment
How public and private actors can join forces to grow inclusive business

Story highlights

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.

People at a policy meeting

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.

Carin Smaller and Grahame Dixie combined

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.

And the opportunity doesn’t stop there.

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.”

different stakeholders at meetings

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.”

People at a press conference

The Kiva Protocol, a unique public-private partnership, aims at providing access to finance for the unbanked in Sierra Leone. Photo Credit: Kiva

Man giving a statement at press conference

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.

People at a conference

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.

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.

Blog post

What is inclusive business anyway?

As governments, investors—and even inclusive businesses themselves—are increasingly seeking ways to categorise business activity as inclusive or not, these soon-to-be-released operating guidelines can help stakeholders identify those companies that are “…
Sahba Sobhani
Table of contents

graphic summary


A visual summary of the key challenges entrepreneurs need to consider when it comes to policymaking and public-private cooperation for inclusive business. Learn more about these aspects by reading this seventh edition of the newly developed…



Dietrich explains how engaging with policymakers as an entrepreneur is constructive and fun, with a great risk/return ratio. After all, “inclusive business delivers financial return, inclusive growth, and systemic social impact—a win, win, win for business, government, and low-income people.”

Markus Dietrich Markus Dietrich

featured story

In the era of inclusive business, government is friend, not foe

To transform our economy and help inclusive businesses thrive, business and government cooperation is critical. In this CLUED-iN issue, policymakers, entrepreneurs and others share their thoughts on public-private partnerships and other forms of collaboration between the public and the private sectors. Governments can create an enabling environment for IBs and entrepreneurs can build social innovations that drive policy innovations. The magic is in the synergy!

Dana Gulley

What is inclusive business anyway?

As governments, investors—and even inclusive businesses themselves—are increasingly seeking ways to categorise business activity as inclusive or not, these soon-to-be-released operating guidelines can help stakeholders identify those companies that are “truly inclusive businesses.”

How responsible are ASEAN business entrepreneurs?

Dixie and Smaller discuss the ten issue-specific principles that ASEAN has released to guide investments in the region. They argue that entrepreneurs in the region should pay attention to these guidelines if they are to “access an ever-growing pot of responsible investment.”

In Sierra Leone, multi-sector pioneers are transforming financial systems that were built to exclude

Davie explains the impacts of financial exclusion on people’s livelihoods and the huge opportunity for financial inclusion through efforts like the Kiva Protocol, a pioneering public-private partnership to bring over 4 million unbanked adults in Sierra Leone into the formal economy.

Public-private engagement makes good policy—and good business—sense

Miller describes why policy engagement is crucial for inclusive business to thrive and shares the impacts of the Power for All campaign, which used policy reform to accelerate market growth for distributed renewable energy (DRE) in Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria.

Entrepreneurs wanted: how governments and the private sector can work together to build more supportive inclusive business environments

Marta shares the work of United Nations ESCAP, in partnership with iBAN, to identify policy opportunities in Cambodia to support the development of new and existing inclusive business models. She explains how and why IB entrepreneurs can benefit from engaging in these policymaking efforts.

Shaping the Philippine inclusive business landscape

Moleno gives insights into the Philippines' experience in IB policymaking. Both the country's private and public sectors have embraced inclusive business as an approach to poverty reduction and building an inclusive society. Crafting efficient inclusive business policies has led to positive reactions from the private sector. Moleno describes obstacles that had to be overcome and learnings for other countries.

Scaling catalytic business and policy innovations to take a bite out of food waste

Sir Gordon Conway, member of the Malabo Montpellier Panel, discusses the impacts of global food waste and offers examples of catalytic business and policy innovations that—if replicated and scaled—could mean massive reductions in hunger and poverty, not to mention methane emissions.

Pact for Impact: A global coalition where social innovation inspires ambitious, agile policy

According to High Commissioner Itier, “social innovation means public innovation.” This is why he has helped form a coalition of governments, enterprises, investors and civil society to more quickly transform the traditional economy to be more social and inclusive.

In Your Words

Policy experts share inspiring insights and best practices on inclusive business policies during the iBAN policy roadshow in Nigeria and Kenya