Far from being a fringe idea, inclusive business – where the private sector includes poor communities in its value chain as customers, producers, suppliers, employees and/or distributors – has found a place within the international development landscape in recent years. What was once considered an anomaly – that the private sector could, would or should contribute to development outcomes – is now accepted as a preferred path towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

In fact, a quick reflection of key events in recent years shows just how far inclusive business has progressed, positioning it under the international diplomacy spotlight:

  • In 2015, leaders at the G20 Summit issued a ‘Call to Action on Inclusive Business’ and endorsed the G20 Inclusive Business Framework.
  • The Government of the Philippines as Chair of APEC 2015 hosted the APEC High-Level Dialogue on Inclusive Business.
  • In 2017, the Chairman’s Statement of the 31st ASEAN Summit acknowledged the importance of inclusive business and welcomed the adoption of the ASEAN Inclusive Business Framework.

Now that inclusive business has received high-level endorsement from international policy makers and world leaders, with support structures to see inclusive business become a reality, it looks like inclusive business is here to stay…right? Well, not necessarily. In fact, now that inclusive business is being talked about on the world stage, the real work begins. Inclusive business must now go mainstream – a much harder objective. In order to achieve this, companies around the world, large and small, must commit to implementing inclusive business models in their own commercial operations in ways that will drive transformative change for the world’s poor.

We’ve succeeded in convincing governments that inclusive business sounds good in theory; now we need to convince companies that inclusive business makes good commercial sense in practice. When we’ve reached that point only then can we truly say that inclusive business has become ubiquitous.

As one donor recently said, the time for inclusive business rhetoric is over – we now need to see results, we need to see the evidence.

Which companies will lead the way?