The Fortnightly Business Fights Poverty Round-Up 

By Annabel Beales, Researcher, Business Fights Poverty

Annabel Beales rounds-up Business Fights Poverty’s activities over the last two weeks. We have continued our Black Lives Matter Series; delved into how companies and investors can collaborate to embed purpose authentically into business; and examined how a focus on greater inclusivity can build resilience in the COVID-19 era. 

My last roundup was focused on the importance of listening, particularly to marginalised voices. This week, the emphasis is firmly on translating new learning into tangible action, with a wealth of resources on how business can embrace purpose and rebuild better.

Our Black Lives Matter Series continues, in which members of the Business Fights Poverty network share their reflections on the impacts of racism and what can be done to address it.

  • Naomi Cameron-Wyatt, who works in cyber security, calls attention to the duty of business to “encourage open dialogues about race and white privilege in the workplace” and for education which shows the links between the history of slavery and oppression and modern-day struggles for equality and justice.
  • In the same vein, Tomasin Fasosin, a high school junior from Maryland, USA, calls on us all to engage with difficult conversations, and for racism education in schools that challenges the negative portrayals of black people in society.
  • Myriam Sidibe Senior Fellow, Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Harvard Kennedy School and Author, “Brands on a Mission…” argues that purpose-led brands can play a “unique and powerful role in shattering stereotypes and reshaping public opinion”. To lead with authority, public statements from brands must be backed by demonstrable action to achieve racial equality.

The theme of business purpose is central to all our work, and is the subject of our most recent report, “How Can Companies and Investors Collaborate to Embed Purpose Authentically into Business?”. This is the product of a collaborative Challenge launched in June 2019 and supported by GSK, Unilever and Visa. Our research showed that investors are an underutilised and valuable source of expertise and support for companies who are serious about embedding purpose. Working together with investors, companies can strengthen the link between addressing material, social and environmental factors and a company’s financial performance.

  • An article by Vittorio Cerulli, Challenge Director, and Zahid Torres-Rahman, CEO, Business Fights Poverty provides a brief introduction.
  • An online discussion, to launch the report, provided an opportunity for an expert panel and our wider membership to share their own insights.

In response to COVID-19, businesses across the world have stepped into their social purpose like never before. As western countries begin to turn towards rebuilding and recovery, the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the world’s most vulnerable people must not be forgotten. Over the last fortnight, much of our content has been exploring the link between greater inclusivity and the resilience of businesses, societies and economies.

  • An online discussion marked the turning of our attention “From Response to Rebuilding Better”, exploring how business can build purposeful collaborations to support the resilience and recovery of the most vulnerable.

Some of our content has focused on how businesses can build resilience through greater inclusion of some of their most vulnerable stakeholders:

  • Would Workers on Boards Make Corporations More COVID-19 Resilient? Irit Tamir, Director, Private Sector Department, Oxfam America certainly thinks so, arguing that “ COVID-19 presents an opportunity for re-inventing the relationship between workers and corporate America to one that is based on partnership and collaboration.”
  • Women and girls have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and there is grave danger of recent gains in equality being reversed. Cecilia Ugaz Estrada, Müge Dolun, Carmen Schuber and Nicolas Schmidt, UNIDO explained why it is essential to “harness women’s full potential as leaders, innovators and agents of industrial and environmental change.” For this to be a reality, access to childcare must be taken seriously. Sherrilee Le Mottee, Early Childhood Care and Education Specialist, IFC, highlights the challenge and flags the IFC’s recent Guide for Employers on helping women back to work in the COVID-19 era.

One promising avenue to effect change is to boost financial inclusion. The COVID-19 health emergency is giving rise to a socio-economic crisis that could  increase global poverty by as much as half a billion people.

  • According to Lewis Temple, Chief Executive Officer, BRAC UK, “microfinance is a crucial tool for poor households to smooth consumption, invest in small businesses, build resilience, and cope with shocks”. His article provides three ways that MFIs and businesses can partner to invest in local economies and communities.
  • Business Fights Poverty and Endeva released a report, “Strengthening Markets Through Collaboration”, on how to support MSMEs who are facing deeply entrenched, complex and interconnected challenges. Using a “Market Building Collaboration” approach, stakeholders can combining their strengths in a systematic way to magnify their impact both in terms of commercial results and social impact.
  • We have also been working with Standard Chartered on their “Futuremakers Forum Discussion Series: Driving Enterprise and Employment with Young People.” This discussion paper is part of Standard Chartered’s global Futuremakers initiative, to tackle inequality and promote greater economic inclusion. It forms an introduction to their upcoming online event series exploring Innovative ideas and tangible solutions to financing young entrepreneurs; Scalability, sustainability and participation in value chains; and Developing Skills and Quality Jobs for Young People.

Finally, our busy fortnight has been rounded out with inspiring discussion on the inclusive business models that are transforming core business activities and value chains to include the “bottom billion” – the world’s poorest people, who are being left behind by conventional models of economics and business.

  • Following up on a webinar on “Resilience for Inclusive Business” held in April, Adrien Darodes, Project Manager, HYSTRA, provides insights into how inclusive businesses have rapidly adapted to the challenges of COVID-19 to continue to serve their low-income consumers.
  • Grace Avila Casanova, Business Sustainability Specialist and Co-founder, Impacto International, provides a “call to action for businesses of all sizes and, and across all sectors, to plan for and implement inclusive business models”, and explains how inclusive businesses can foster recovery through intrapreneurship, cross-sectoral collaboration, and measuring their impact.

Business Fights Poverty is built on the power of collaboration and mutual support, and we hope you will find something here to inspire or develop your own initiatives. We love to hear from our members, so please do get in touch with the BFP team with your own reflections, insights and updates.

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