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The Power of Inclusive Business in ASEAN



The ASEAN region's journey toward sustainable development and inclusive growth can be GREATly enhanced by inclusive business models, as emphasized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) during its 80th session of the Commission. ESCAP actively promotes inclusive business in Asia and the Pacific, recognizing its potential to integrate low-income communities into value chains as suppliers, distributors, retailers, or customers. These models showcase that profitability and social impact are not mutually exclusive; they can work hand in hand to uplift communities and drive economic progress.


ASEAN AND INCLUSIVE BUSINESS

Inclusive business models have the power to revolutionize how sustainability and inclusivity are incorporated into business structures; many countries have already begun implementing them into their operations. In the Philippines, Unilever’s 'Project Shakti' empowers women in rural areas by training them as micro-entrepreneurs who sell Unilever products door to door. This not only widens Unilever’s distribution network but also improves income prospects for women. In Vietnam, social enterprises like KOTO (Know One, Teach One) have successfully combined hospitality training with job placement for at-risk youth. This not only provides employment opportunities but simultaneously supports the growth of the tourism industry. Philippines also has an example of the successful incorporation of inclusive business. Kenner Foods’ initiative to creating income opportunities for over 10,000 coconut farmers by promoting inter-cropping with cacao. These business endeavors create GREAT positive change within local ASEAN communities, as well as foster sustainable and local business operations.


PROFIT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Inclusive business models offer a powerful synergy between profit generation and sustainable development. Through training and capacity-building programs, inclusive businesses enhance the skills of their partners in the value chain. This, in the long term, creates both skill development and poverty alleviation. As more individuals improve their employability, overall skills, and productivity, a larger pool of skilled employees is created. Aside from creating a positive community impact, partnerships centered around these models can also positively impact the environment. Many inclusive business models emphasize sustainable practices; promoting environmental conservation and responsible resource management. For instance, partnerships with local farmers can encourage sustainable agricultural practices. Inclusive businesses and sustainable products are increasingly significant factors influencing consumer decisions. According to NielsonIQ, 2 out of 3 shoppers said they would switch brands if they were not transparent about their labels, and 75% of consumers are willing to pay premiums for sustainable products in Thailand.


The ASEAN region’s journey toward sustainable development and inclusive growth can be GREATly enhanced by inclusive business models. These models showcase that profitability and social impact are not mutually exclusive; they can work hand in hand to uplift communities and drive economic progress. By fostering partnerships between businesses, governments, and local communities, ASEAN countries are not just harnessing the power of commerce but also shaping a more equitable and sustainable future for all. Inclusive business models are just another GREAT way for organizations to start incorporating the 3Ps into their operations: Profit, People, and Planet.


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