New WBCSD guide encourages doing business with the poor

Source: WBCSD, 30 March 2004

The WBCSD released "Doing business with the poor: A field guide". Dhtis guide explores how several companies are starting to break into an untapped market of over four billion potential customers in ways that benefit both the poor and the company.
Written by the World Business Council for Sustainable Developments (WBCSD), the guide advises companies to stick to core business, while finding innovative ways of marketing, distributing and billing when doing business with the poor which it defines as sustainable livelihoods.

The concept of doing business with the poor could revolutionize the way we do business and the way we think about doing business, say the projects co-chairs, corporate leaders Reuel Khoza of Eskom, John Manzoni of BP and Julio Moura of GrupoNueva. However, this revolution will require moving beyond conventional business thinking.

The publication is called a field guide because it is designed for CEOs to send out to the field to managers working in developing countries among poor populations. It follows the learning journeys of companies such as BP, GrupoNueva, Procter & Gamble, SC Johnson, Suez, and Vodafone, all WBCSD members.

The three building blocks of successful pro-poor business:

FOCUS on core competencies when developing pro-poor business models. Companies that concentrate on what they do best are better able to tackle an issue effectively and make a viable
business out of it.

LOCALIZE value creation. Companies operating in developing countries often lack the necessary infrastructure and support systems that they are used to in traditional markets. Whether it is market intelligence, manufacturing capabilities, or distribution channels, they have much to gain from tapping into local networks and local knowledge.

PARTNER with external resources that offer complementary expertise. Interest from many governments and NGOs, including development organizations, in working with the business sector is high; the partnership model is beginning to replace the adversarial model.
The guide suggests that companies that move from philanthropy to doing business in their dealings with the poor can secure a competitive edge in the long-term, says Cameron Rennie, director of the WBCSDs Sustainable Livelihoods Project. This is at the core of our thinking: sustainable livelihoods is strictly about business, new business and new markets, not charity or philanthropy.

Most of the planets people are poor between 67% and 78%, depending on figures, so most multinational companies are fiercely competing over a minority of potential customers. That is a spectacular oversight on our part, says WBCSD President Björn Stigson.

We believe that our WBCSD members and regional partners should be, for their own good and the good of the planet, in the front lines of efforts to bring the poor into the market, thus decreasing poverty and increasing prosperity for all. Business cannot succeed in societies that fail.

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