Partnering for Inclusive Business in Southeast Asia
The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is the most inclusive intergovernmental platform in the Asia-Pacific region. The Commission promotes cooperation among its 53 member States and 9 associate members in pursuit of solutions to sustainable development challenges. ESCAP is one of the five regional commissions of the United Nations.
Can you share your thoughts about CLUED-iN magazine? What did you like about it? What inspired you? Can you give an example?
From the first time I visited the iBAN website, I have valued the information on the policies and strategies that governments around the world are taking to promote inclusive businesses. For those of us seeking to support governments in their efforts to achieve the sustainable development goals, it is useful to access information regarding steps taken by different governments to promote business models that enable more inclusive growth.
I also enjoy reading the profiles of business leaders and their inclusive business models. There are many inspirational accounts of women and men going beyond the bottom line and making a difference in the lives of small holder farmers, low-income households and marginalised communities.
Which issues are most pressing for your work in inclusive business now?
At United Nations ESCAP, in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we are promoting Inclusive Business Models in Agriculture and Food Systems in India, Thailand and Viet Nam. This comprehensive initiative will generate greater capacity among firms and governments to promote inclusive business models that reach small scale farmers. It will also facilitate the identification of partnerships and investment opportunities that enable the expansion of inclusive business models.
For instance, 30 selected firms in India and Viet Nam will benefit from customized inclusive business coaching to introduce innovations in their business model that bring greater value for smallholder farmers. ESCAP will also be supporting the development of an accreditation system for inclusive business in Viet Nam – with such accreditation system, businesses that go beyond profits will be recognized for their efforts. In India and Thailand, ESCAP will be taking stock of the current ecosystem for inclusive business. These studies will help governments identify opportunities that inclusive business could bring and how to support them.
ESCAP will also continue to support the great work that ASEAN Member States have been doing at the national level and as a Community. In 2023, ESCAP will be supporting the Government of Indonesia to continue promoting inclusive business during its ASEAN chairmanship.
Finally, we would like to see that the fantastic work that iBAN has been doing over the years to promote inclusive business continues to be sustained.
How do you see inclusive business evolving in the future?
For inclusive business to be sustainable and leave no one behind, it will be critical to pay greater attention to how these enterprises are supporting environmental sustainability and women empowerment. Considerations of environmental sustainability will need to be introduced along inclusive dimensions of social reach and social impact depth. Regarding women empowerment, a closer examination of the transformational impact that inclusive business models bring for women will help inform how impact firms can improve women’s livelihoods more strategically.
The moment for impact businesses has arrived. Social enterprises and inclusive businesses are no longer a rarity, and a whole movement to make impact business more common is taking place. I expect more governments taking action and introducing measures, such as the accreditation of inclusive business or access to customised business coaching, to promote inclusive business models. We will also see the development of a greater enabling environment at the national level, and beyond, to promote inclusive businesses. For instance, many ASEAN Governments are now putting in place strategies and programmes to promote inclusive business.