Business resilience and sustainable development have taken on new meaning, and new urgency, in the wake of COVID-19. On top of the dire health and human cost of the global pandemic, projections indicate that most countries around the world will be plunged into recession, with low-income markets at risk of longer-term damage. COVID-19 could push over 71 million people into extreme poverty in 2020, representing the first increase in global extreme poverty since 1998, effectively wiping out progress made since 2017.
Inclusive businesses models – for-profit models that engage low-income communities in core business activities as employees, producers, suppliers, entrepreneurs and customers – demonstrate a unique suitability for COVID-19 response and recovery. Operating in challenging environments and designed from the outset to actively engage beneficiaries and leverage innovation while reducing poverty and inequality, inclusive businesses stood ready to pivot and address the needs of low-income stakeholders even in the most low-resource environments, providing access to healthcare, education, ICT and other critical services.
As the world now seeks to simultaneously fight the ongoing pandemic and build back batter, inclusive business presents a valuable opportunity for economies and societies alike to rebuild sustainably and with newfound resilience. Inclusive business enables economic growth and poverty alleviation in a resource-neutral or positive way, especially in resource-taxing sectors like agriculture, where inclusive business models can equip the world’s several hundred million smallholder farmers to farm more efficiently and sustainably. Also, as inclusive business tackles poverty and women are disproportionately poorer, inclusive business holds great potential to continue advancing women’s economic empowerment.
Inclusive business also generates resilience. Close engagement with stakeholders – a core tenant of inclusive business – helps organizations thrive in the face of hardship and enables business-model innovation through knowledge sharing and co-creation with communities, increasing the likelihood of companies responding to market opportunities early and successfully, and of low-income stakeholders benefiting from them. Moreover, as private sector funds are stretched thin and inequalities exacerbated by COVID-19, private sector capital and inclusive innovation are more welcome and more critical than ever.
BCtA’s 10th Annual Forum, “Reimagining Resilience through Inclusive Business Innovation,” seeks to inform new paths to resilience and inspire a renewed commitment to sustainable development through inclusive business. The event will tap into BCtA’s member network of inclusive business trailblazers to highlight real-world examples of business models that address both immediate COVID-related concerns and contribute to longer-term sustainable development and recovery. It will convene governments and multilateral organizations for strategic discussions on charting the new frontier of business and sustainable development, and uncover promising new alliances across diverse sectors to spur fresh, future-proof development solutions and to spark inclusive innovation.
The event will be hosted on a virtual platform that will remain open all day in order to cover multiple time zones and allow people to log in and connect with other participants throughout the day.
In addition to the live mainstage panels, lounge sessions will act as a space for informal interaction, out-of-the-box thinking and facilitated dialogue between businesses and inclusive business experts on an array of topics, from access to ICT to agriculture and food security. Forum participants can join these sessions for discussion and debate. See the lounge agenda for more details.