Inclusive business — the pursuit of opportunities in traditionally unattractive or currently unprofitable market segments – is, increasingly, a strategic imperative for companies. Foregoing such segments could mean opening the door to disruption and closing it to options for future growth; this is an especially crucial concern that relates to developing economies, which represent the world’s faster-growth markets over the long-term. The idea of inclusion encompasses being inclusive of future generations and, by extension, underscores the need for responsible stewardship of the environment, natural resources and supply chains. In other words, sustainability is integral to inclusive business.
In light of many of the dramatic political developments of 2016, such as the Brexit vote and the U.S. presidential elections, we can expect that governments of advanced economies will scale back their investments in international cooperation and global sustainable development, in favor of focusing on job creation at home. This will heighten the expectations from other sectors – the private sector, in particular – to step in and help fill the void. Pursuing business-as-usual objectives in parallel with inclusive business will require new models of innovation and partnership with other sectors. When successful, such “inclusive innovators” can pave the way for global growth, development and inclusive prosperity.
In January of 2016, the United Nations initiated a new global agenda leading up to 2030 through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) launched in the fall of 2015. Unlike their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs consider the private sector as an essential participant in the process. The initiation of these new goals presents businesses and other sectors with a unique opportunity to expand the cadre of inclusive innovators who can accelerate progress on sustainable development worldwide.
This report is the outcome of a year-long in‐depth research effort involving over 20 global companies spanning a broad range of industries, conducted by The Fletcher School at Tufts University. It is part of Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context research and conference initiative on inclusive growth.
The report is the third in a series. The first report, “Growth for Good or Good for Growth,” analyzes the drivers and barriers affecting the practice of inclusive business activities within a wide range of businesses; the second report, “Inclusion Inc.” shared perspectives on operationalizing these activities and outcomes of live problem-solving in a major conference held at The Fletcher School. “The Inclusive Innovators”, the third report of the series, applies the strategies, lessons, and insights from 20 well known global companies to identify ways in which businesses can leverage the SDGs to join sustainable business with sustainable development, as well as address several of the challenges that would need to be overcome.
We hope you will read critically, ask your own questions, challenge what needs to be challenged, and continue the discussion. Most significantly, we expect that this process shall have a positive impact on the actions that businesses and their partners take to improve the state of an increasingly fragile and divided world.