UNLEASHING INCLUSIVE BUSINESS: Toward SDG Implementation Bangladesh

Jun 5, 2016



In 2015, world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which established 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and committed the world to ending poverty, fighting inequality and injustice, and tackling climate change by 2030. The SDGs have since come to define global priorities and shape the global development agenda, providing a shared vision for governments, the private sector and the civil society to work towards. For the SDGs to fulfill their potential, a more comprehensive approach that engages all tiers of society is necessary. Without the collective action of actors across all sectors, the SDGs cannot be achieved.

For the private sector, that engagement stems from the unique role they can play by dislodging low-income families from the cycle of poverty through sustainable, commercially viable and scalable business models like inclusive business. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) defines inclusive business as “business models that create value by providing products and services to, or sourcing from, the poor,” essentially meaning that such models engage people living at the Base of the Pyramid (BoP) as consumers, producers, suppliers, and distributors of goods and services in a sustainable, commercially viable and scalable manner. By targeting lower income households as part of the value chain of companies’ core business, these actors within the private sector play a key role in sustainably contributing to the achievement of the SDGs. For companies, the opportunity to engage in inclusive business has never been more compelling – technological innovation, new forms of financing, evolving consumer demands, and changing regulation are creating new venues for the private sector to leverage the SDGs as a way to have a meaningful and lasting role in poverty reduction, and sustainable growth.

The Business Call to Action (BCtA), in cooperation with The Partnering Initiative, Business Fights Poverty and UNDP Country Offices, is partnering with SNV Netherlands Development Organization, BOP Inc. and other local partners on the ground to initiate a global dialogue around IB and raise awareness about the opportunities to contribute to SDGs achievement through private sector engagement on national levels. To this end, the partners are organizing a series of events in several countries, including Bangladesh, to launch the discussions around IB and SDGs.

Objectives of the workshop:

BCtA is conducting a joint event with SNV Netherlands Development Organization and UNDP Bangladesh to initiate a dialogue on business opportunities of investing in inclusive business in Bangladesh, and inclusive business role in the Development Agenda of 2030. The event will bring together leading partners in business, civil society, government, donors and other stakeholders to discuss critical challenges and innovative solutions in inclusive business. The event will (a) provide key insights into how the private sector can be a key partner to the Bangladesh government in achieving the SDGs through inclusive business models; and (b) identify challenges, incentives and best practices for the growth of IB in Bangladesh.

The proposed topics for discussion are elaborated below:

1)      Panel on Strengthening the link between inclusive business models and achieving GoB’s commitment to SDGs (Policy Session)

The SDGs present an opportunity for business-led solutions and technologies to address the world’s biggest sustainable development challenges. The private sector is a valued partner in achieving the 2030 Development Agenda.

As a method of engaging the private sector in a meaningful manner, inclusive business provides a proven, commercially viable way to grow a business while achieving social impact at scale. Inclusive business goes a step further than CSR or responsible business by targeting BoP populations as consumers, who represent a large share of the world population, and whose basic demands are still unmet; producers, suppliers and distributors.  Presently, BoP demand for goods and services alone is valued at as much as $5 trillion a year, and it is anticipated that 70% of world GDP growth will come from emerging markets in the coming years. Companies may choose to take advantage of this opportunity by expanding into these markets or consider creating additional revenue streams if they already have a strong footprint. Inclusive business engages the BoP along the supply-demand chain for mutually beneficial (win-win) results.

Through innovative, profitable and scalable inclusive business models, such financing of SDGs will be crucial for Bangladesh. For instance for zero hunger (SDG 2) to be a reality in Bangladesh, agriculture and food industry will need to look at ways on how to improve productivity on farms and strengthen innovative distribution channels so that their products reach the BoP. For affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), where most of the suppliers in Bangladesh are in the private sector, the companies need to explore ways on how to make such technology accessible/affordable to the poor in order to sustain the market. For clean water and sanitation (SDG 6), there is immense need for such in Bangladesh, particularly in the urban slum areas which the private sector can meet through innovative pricing and distribution models. Lastly, as the market shifts toward addressing Bottom of Pyramid needs, private sector investment in researching and developing new products and services tailored to low-income households will grow. To achieve scale and reach the wider BoP population, it is necessary for the business to pursue both purpose (social good) as well as profit.

The SDGs enable inclusive business by aligning all actors around a common framework. Thus, the Government of Bangladesh is working toward to achieving the SDGs through a variety of interventions that explore both, a whole of government and whole of society approach.

2)      Identify challenges, incentives and best practices for the development and growth of IB models in Bangladesh (Technical Session)

Inclusive business is not a new concept for Bangladesh. Indeed, many, particularly in the agriculture and food & beverage sectors in the country have been engaging the BoP as producers, distributors and consumers through innovative and profitable IB models in recent years. Apart from agriculture and food industry, there are pioneer companies in the finance and banking, water and sanitation, renewable energy and other sectors who have been practicing IB and are already experiencing the benefits of in engaging in such models. These sectors show significant promise for inclusive businesses to generate financial returns, while at the same time, building on

existing national efforts to implement the SDGs as part of the Development Agenda 2030.

The event will bring together leading companies that have developed and successfully pursued inclusive business models in Bangladesh to showcase the best practices in inclusive business and the rationale for investing in such models. Such pioneering companies are also best positioned to provide insights into the challenges and opportunities for developing such models. The interactive session of the event will be business-led, engaging participants in interactive discussions around the practical issues of inclusive business implementation in Bangladesh, enabling environment for scale as well as the role of key stakeholders in promoting inclusive business.


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