Using Inclusive Business to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

By Bronagh Loughlin

We’re living in scary times of uncertainty. Not only are we learning to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic but our planet is continuing to be wounded by our actions right in front of our eyes.  

From rapidly burning fossil fuels to chopping down rainforests and watching many species become extinct to the levels of single-use plastic we allow to enter our oceans and our own food systems.  

We have no more time to waste, we have to find ways to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to reverse the damage, we have already caused. If we don’t, we could risk destroying our planet to the point of Earth becoming unlivable.  

The Sustainable Development Goals work as a blueprint for achieving a better and more sustainable future for all of humanity. They address global challenges related to climate, environmental degradation, inequality, poverty, prosperity and peace and justice.  

One way to achieve the goals set out by the UN is by adopting an inclusive business model. The companies with inclusive business models have a large role to play in advancing the private sector’s efforts to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  

Adapting and integrating inclusive business models will immensely help businesses to take a major leap towards sustainable development. For those who do not yet know, an inclusive business brings people living at the base of the economic pyramid – those who are underserved or poor – into value chains at distributors, retailers, suppliers or customers.

 The dual focus of inclusive business is achieving both development impact and commercial viability and inclusive business fosters opportunity and expands access using private-sector solutions that are scalable, replicable and sustainable.  

Inclusive business is about investing profit for purpose and fighting poverty. Since the mid 2000s, the development finance community has been long aware of the connection between unsustainable resource usage and poverty.  

Inclusive business is a promising sustainable development strategy for a number of reasons. For one thing, inclusive business enables economic growth which is what all business sectors are built on. It also enables private sector development and poverty alleviation in a positive or resource-neutral way.  

In addition, it enables stretched public funds to be strengthened with private-sector capital looking to combine profit with purpose. Inclusive businesses can create opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship for people who are living at the BOP, either directly or through companies’ value chains as distributors, suppliers and retailers.  

Alternatively, companies can develop ways to supply high quality and affordable products and services to meet basic needs for water, food, housing, sanitation and health care. Or, they can develop innovative business models to improve access to key development enablers such as communications, financing, energy and insurance.  

Inclusive business models offer an optimal congruence of private sector and development policy interests and objectives around the SDG agenda. Inclusive business offers opportunities for growth, innovation and competitiveness at the same time as positive development and social impact. It brings the poor greater choice, access and opportunity in their lives and futures.  

To become an inclusive business, you must be intentional and be purposeful about how you create your business. Do your research by taking the time to learn from other inclusive businesses. Prioritise working with diverse partners and employees too and participate in initiatives.  

For example, work on or create a campaign that empowers members of underrepresented communities. Don’t forget to build an inclusive culture as being inclusive starts with you, the leader and the business owner. 

The time to adopt change is now. We are running out of time. If we want our planet to continue to thrive, we need to start planning and finding ways to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  

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