The Fortnightly Business Fights Poverty Round-Up

By Annabel Beales, Challenge Researcher, Business Fights Poverty

Annabel Beales rounds-up Business Fights Poverty’s activities over the last two weeks. We have made new commitments in response to the murder of George Floyd and #BlackLivesMatter protests, and continue to explore how business can engage the spirit of entrepreneurialism in support of vulnerable MSMEs and workers post-COVID-19.

Following three busy months establishing the Business and COVID-19 Response Centre, our attention is turning to how to rebuild better. With the launch of our survey, we are entering into a period of listening – to our members, supporters, and the wider debate – so that  our efforts to help build a more resilient and inclusive society respond to the needs of our community, and the most vulnerable.

Public debate has, rightly, been dominated over last two weeks by the horrendous murder of George Floyd and the groundswell of protest demanding urgent action to root out the racism which is so ingrained in all aspects of our society. However uncomfortable it may be, the first step in anti-racism work must be to listen to and really hear the pain, anger and frustration being expressed by black people across the world. Zahid Torres-Rahman, CEO, Business Fights Poverty, has committed to deepening our efforts to integrate race into our collaborative fight against poverty, and to do better in ensuring our platform is diverse and inclusive. 

This week, we launched the Black Lives Matter Series, in which members of the Business Fights Poverty network share their reflections on recent events and what needs to be done differently in future. Dr Tauni Lanier, a systems entrepreneur, welcomes the shift that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is now understood to be relevant to the wider community, and that businesses are beginning to speak of “racism” distinct from the broader subject of “diversity”. Sizakele Marutlulle, sociologist and strategist, urges those who are in positions of privilege to lead from their values, to do the work of listening and learning, and then to take substantive action. She also highlights the interconnection between racism, systemic inequality and global concerns, such as COVID-19: “Yes, we are a single race, but not all of us get to roast equally in the fires of epidemics.” Anti-racism work, essential in its own right, is also fundamental to righting systemic injustice in all its forms.  

Over the last 15 years, Business Fights Poverty has argued that social change requires more than philanthropy or public statements; it demands a fundamental shift towards placing purpose at the heart of core businesses, systems and processes. Our work on COVID-19 has shown the great potential of business to make a real difference, working in partnership with other sectors and through global supply chains. Myriam Sidibe, global handwashing expert and Founder, National Business Compact on Coronavirus, Kenya, joined Katie Hyson for our Spotlight Podcast, discussing her predictions for how things will change post-COVID-19 and how we can rebuild better businesses through compassionate capitalism. In an interview with IFC Insights, Jane Nelson of the Corporate Responsibility Initiative at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University discussed Lessons for COVID-19-era CEOs and her upcoming work with Business Fights Poverty to develop on our Business & COVID-19 Response Framework for specific industries and issues. 


On that note, this week we’ve released a new guide on how sectors can work together to remove the systemic barriers that stand in the way of MSMEs re-building from the COVID-19 crisis, which has exposed the deeply entrenched, complex and interconnected challenges MSMEs face, particularly in the developing world. We also held an online discussion in which a panel of experts explored how to ensure MSMEs thrive post COVID-19Complementing this theme, two articles from the Fairtrade Foundation give insight into how to support farmers and workers through the COVID-19 crisis, and the need for collaborative action to close the living income gap for cocoa farmers.  Entrepreneur Dominic McVey joined our podcast to provide candid insights into the effects of COVID-19 on vulnerable workers, value chains and the systems that support them.


To rebuild better, we will need new solutions and ways of working that prioritise the most vulnerable in our societies. This is where the spirit of entrepreneurialism can be invaluable. An article by Randall Kempner, Executive Director, Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs explores the need for entrepreneurial support for SMEs in emerging markets, and David Grayson, Emeritus Professor of Corporate Responsibility at Cranfield School of Management explores how  intrapreneurialism can help businesses to support unpaid carers.  To mark Global Intrapreneur Week, we will be holding an online event with The League of Intrapreneurs on Wednesday, 10th June (13:00 BST/08:00 EDT) to explore Radical Collaboration – How we accelerate partnerships to rebuild better? We hope you will join this and other events as we double down on our commitment to build a more resilient and inclusive world. 


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