Do you think we need to make a clear distinction between CSR and inclusive business, or in reality is it more of a continuum?

Caroline, you have raised a very important question. Some interesting viewpoints also in the responses.

I totally agree with you it is about core business. I tend to look at the subject from the business insider’s lens. I spent a great deal of my time in marketing, product development, business development , CSR and organizational development – most of the time helping bring in new, better and different. The very areas where ‘inclusive business’ and CSR have strategic and practical implications - the selling has to happen here. Where the lateral thinking and mind shifting your refer to should happen

Any change in mindset requires a home grown approach. Beginning with knowing how to use knowledge of how a particular business and organization works and how to leverage what already happens inside the business . How to use its own strengths - structures, systems, processes, activities etc – and most importantly, people - to create something new, better or different.

I have found these couple of practical questions/ideas useful in stimulating discussion - even if provocative :

a)How do you define and build inclusivity in the entire product line & the value chain?. It has to be part of the business model DNA. The ideal: products and services which bring inherent social, economic & environmental benefits to consumers and communities. Plan in both incremental & radical development right across the organization – in products/services, process, policy & systems – and in people. From R&D all the way to HR practices. Widen the scope of what you already do and know in marketing and product development - it is easier to do and to integrate into core processes. I've done enough transformation projects to know this can be done.

b)Why should you avoid creating a separate structure for or mystique around ‘inclusive business’?. Why not extend the existing product line, distribution and supply chain structures, systems and processes to serve or bring in un-served/under-served markets ( includes the ‘ BOPs’) . If you have to add some resource to focus on new and different markets, do that within the mainstream product development/marketing structure. If you already do this, use your incubators but then bring their outputs into mainstream work.

c)What should you do to avoid ad hoc projects/short-term piece-meal solutions?. In my view, this is the de facto 'inclusive business' solution - do the odd one or two projects in sourcing/supply chain or distribution or other channel -to--market or some other project under the CSR banner. Not a tenable model. Certainly don't do it to appease advocacy campaigners, the development community or a UN programme. Or to win PR points. Short-termism and appeasement will be hard to sell and reconcile internally. It will distract your product developers, marketers & employees; it will be hard to sustain; it will create inefficiencies etc. and it will create cynicism in the very people you are trying to appease. Do it because it makes sense for your business and stakeholders (customers, employees, extended business, communities etc etc)

d) What can you do to make CSR an inherent component of the investment structure of your business?. Companies already make commercial investment as part of their business strategy. Reframe your CSR strategy and make it about social investment in the communities in which you locate & operate your facilities, recruit from, buy from etc. By investing in education, health care etc and helping those communities improve their social, human, physical, financial etc assets, you help your business's long term viability. Integration of social investment into the mainstream investment strategy has lots of pluses. Easier to sell to the board/investors/shareholders, employees, customers etc etc

e) How can you use collaboration as an integral part of CSR to deliver innovation & social investment. Not everything has to be done or produced internally. Co-creation and collaboration through cross-sector partnerships can be part of the methodologies used by the organisation to deliver innovation - to develop new products/services and new markets and to deliver social investment projects. A way to bring in new ideas, new ways of working – lots of learning back into the organisation to inform and improve inclusivity in the product line etc

So to me - and I guess to many business people I know - the issue is not about whether 'CSR' and 'inclusive business' are separate notions or part of the continuum. It is more about how to work with business to develop brand new business paradigms and evolve existing ones where inclusivity and social investment are natural attributes of the model.