I have spent much of the last decade emphasising how inclusive business is different from corporate social responsibiity. It's precisely because it is core to the business and bottom line that it it has commercial drivers that can take it to scale. So long as the model is 'inclusive', then its social value can multiply without reliance on grants and donations.
When trying to get business leaders to shift their mindset and embrace lateral thinking, or embrace product and supply chain managers, this distinction is really important. So when we define Inclusive Business, we emphasise it. But practical experience in the Business Innovation Facility is illustrating a different side of the coin. The interplay between CSR and inclusive business part of reality, and to support inclusive business we need to recognise it.
A new blog post by an Indian Colleague, Manish Shankar, shares his recommendations to a dairy business in India that they establish a CSR initiative to support their inclusive business model: CSR Done Right.
In Nigeria, our Country Manager Soji Apampa eloquently describes how BIF partners are usually found on a continuum from CSR to inclusive business: We have learnt to trace with them from CSR towards inclusive business to identify where they are on that road and then project with them a vision of possibilities ... This is where the skill is: correctly diagnosing the current situation and working with them to discover and articulate new futures that could be made possible through inclusive business interventions. If they happen to hit their sweet spot in the process, and with your assistance they work out what they need to do in concrete terms to own that future, then you have a potential partner - a driven potentially committed partner (from Do You Know What Your Partner Wants?)
Several inclusive business projects supported by BIF emanate from a CSR stable, including the local sourcing programme of Sun International Hotels in Zambia and GSK, a village level commodity price information initiative, of India's Multi Commodity Exchange, MCX. There is always a risks that they won't clear the hurdle of turning viable. But there are benefits that CSR spend can allow experimentation and innovation before commercial processes kick in.
So going forward, should we continue to define the change in mindset that distinguishes Inclusive Business from CSR, or should be embrace the continuum and develop their synergy?