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The Remarkable Progress of Inclusive Business

By Sahba Sobhani, Acting Programme Manager, Business Call to Action

The Remarkable Progress of Inclusive Business

The first flagship report of Business Call to Action (BCtA) reviewing 5 years, shows strong evidence of progress made by BCtA member companies in providing benefits to people at the Base of the Pyramid (BoP) while delivering commercial success. It also maps key challenges found in each sector for companies that engage with the low-income populations, examines emerging trends and proposes a set of recommendations to governments, corporations and others working in the field.

The report from Business Call to Action at UNDP, Breaking Through: Inclusive Business and the Business Call to Action Today – Mapping Challenges, Progress and the Way Ahead, draws on rich data provided by BCtA’s membership base of 94 inclusive business initiatives.

The report launched today at BCtA’s 2014 Annual Forum in New York demonstrates that across the entire portfolio, BCtA initiatives have reached over 40 million households, or 200 million people through the provision of a diverse set of goods and services, ranging from emergency medical treatments to clean cook-stoves. Among these beneficiaries, an estimated 200,000 households (or 1 million people) are benefiting from new earning opportunities as suppliers, entrepreneurs, or employees, and boosts their household incomes.

In addition, the report highlights an emerging class of small and medium sized enterprises headquartered in the Global South that are increasingly playing an important role in benefiting the low-income populations. “Some of these ‘emerging’ companies are now reaching breakthrough stages, where they are outperforming initiatives of larger and more established companies in terms of revenue, and matching the numbers of people reached at the BoP,” said Sahba Sobhani, Acting Programme Manager of BCtA.

In addition to taking a ‘helicopter view’ of the overall BCtA portfolio, Breaking Through takes an in-depth look at seven ‘impact sectors’ where BCtA member companies are implementing their initiatives. The research shows that these sectors, ranging from agriculture to shelter and living conditions, vary in the progress and trends. The report also identifies challenges that are unique to each of the sectors and common solutions adopted by BCtA members.

The research also explores strategies adopted by BCtA members to achieve scale in their initiatives. “How initiatives reach scale is not a straightforward, one-size-fits-all approach,” said Caroline Ashley, a co-author of the report. “Although fine-tuning the business model locally is a key factor for success, five common strategies also emerge for scaling-up: carefully-choosing or changing partnerships, creating greater willingness to pay, using ICT to unlock new opportunities, turning regulation into a positive force, and securing appropriate finance and internal buy-in.”

The report suggests that there is little doubt that inclusive business is seen as a viable, commercial business model by a growing set of companies, across a wide range of sectors. While there is still much work to be done, there is a huge potential for BCtA member companies to grow and achieve sustainable impact. Breaking Through offers an opportunity for professionals in both business and development to draw valuable insight from the collective experiences of BCtA initiatives showcased in this report.

The complete report can be downloaded here: http://www.businesscalltoaction.org/resources/publications/

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