What is the role of business in creating sustainable development?
The Business Alliance Against Chronic Hunger is a truly innovative, interesting, and promising approach exploring how to build on the capacity and dynamics of business to create sustainable development and alleviate hunger and poverty. The initiative was started in 2006 by a group of visionary CEOs and public leaders, who outlined an action plan for business to help reduce hunger. Through BAACH, business leverage their expertise and capabilities to improve value chains – from production processing, and packaging, to retailing and marketing, with the aim to increase food supplies, nutrition, and income in regions with malnutrition and food insecurity.
The pilot project of the BAACH is now taking action on the ground in Kenya, in the Siaya region. Hear Roselyn Omondi, the program manager of the BAACH tell about the project and the experiences so far in this short video-interview:
Why is BAACH an important and interesting initiative?
Milton Friedman long time ago argued that the business of business is business, and their contribution to society would be through creating jobs and paying taxes, and maybe once in a while channel a bit of the surplus for charity. And indeed, in many development sector arenas the expected role of business still seems to be as donors of generous grants as part of a CSR scheme. Donations do have their reason to be, since for sure not all challenges and activities can be solved with a business model. But for really sustainable development, we need sustainability both on social, environmental, and economical parameters.
From the business side, the BOP strategies for innovating and selling products to the poor is drawing the attention of business towards the poor half of the world’s population. However, although we do see a lot of interesting and successful examples of BOP business, a lot of good intentions from companies seem to strand on the fact that distributing and selling products to the poor is not at all as simple as it sounds in the books. The BOP ‘markets’ are not just there waiting to be ‘tapped’ as it is often put in the seducing business language. Rather, for the usual business man, the task seems like navigating a jungle of informal distribution networks and dealing with ‘customers’ who do not readily see the value of paying for safe water or changing long established practices of cooking, farming, and living. Of course not!
Adding to these head aches of business trying to understand how things work at the bottom of the economic pyramid in rural communities and slum settlements is the very crucial question whether this kind of business with the poor is contribution to creating sustainable development? Again, no clear answer. Mobile phones – yes. Coca Cola – job opportunities along the distribution line, but not necessarily a very sustainable product in itself.
The power and potential of business to really contribute to sustainable development is still to be explored in a systematic, experimental, and bigger picture set up. One of the missing links so far has definitely been to link business efforts closer to the development sector and build on cross sector partnerships to create the necessary capacity building, mindset, and not least value chains and eco-systems from the ground and up. This is why the BAACH is a very important initiative and holds a large scale potential in joining forces and competencies of business and development.
For more info about the BAACH, visit the website HERE