Global progress today reflects a tale of two economies: one in which great leaps forward in human development and poverty reduction coexist with the struggle that many, from the very poor to the middle class, face to participate in and benefit from global economic activity.
In its “Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015,” the World Economic Forum identifies rising income inequality and persistent jobless growth as the two most important economic trends for the global economy, contributing to rising social and economic disparity, restricting consumer spending, and slowing long-term economic growth.
The private sector has a critical role to play in responding to these challenges and promoting more inclusive economic growth through employment, the provision of goods and services, and community engagement and investment. Moreover, there are compelling business reasons to do so—inclusion drives innovation, expands markets, improves operating environments and risk mitigation, and supports long-term growth for companies and economies.
Today, we are proud to officially launch our efforts to galvanize business action and collaboration in support of this agenda with the report “Business Leadership for an Inclusive Economy: A Framework for Collaboration and Impact.”
BSR believes that a strengthened focus on inclusive economic growth is central to sustaining—and extending—the global economic gains of the past few decades. To succeed, all sectors should renew their focus on how to more effectively integrate those excluded from economic participation and benefits, from the billion people expected to remain in extreme poverty; to the systematically marginalized demographic groups, such as women and migrants; to an increasingly vulnerable middle class.
A Framework for Business Leadership
BSR introduced the idea of Business Leadership for an Inclusive Economy in 2014, with articles explaining the urgency of the issue and the role of business in supporting progress. The paper released today details a framework for business leadership, as well as BSR’s approach to advancing progress.
Our framework for business leadership seeks to galvanize increased attention and innovation toward greater inclusion. That framework is built on three pillars: creating good jobs, increasing access to critical goods and services, and ensuring prosperous local communities.
In the report, we also highlight the work of business leaders who are already deploying their assets to support greater inclusion in the economy. For example:
- Novartis’ global effort to pay all employees a living wage
- Microsoft’s recent demand that business contractors in the United States provide paid medical leave
- Standard Chartered’s efforts to create products and bank branches that serve female customers’ unique needs
- GlaxoSmithKline’s release of a malaria vaccine after 20 years of research
- ExxonMobil’s incubation of small and medium businesses, including women-owned businesses, in Papua New Guinea
Significant opportunities exist to build on these efforts and to engage excluded groups even more effectively. Different companies will have different assets and priorities when approaching their leadership strategies for an inclusive economy. Moreover, companies can drive change across many spheres of influence: in their direct operations, through their business partnerships with suppliers and contractors, and as actors in the broader economic environment.
BSR’s Approach to Advancing Business Leadership
Drawing on our strengths as an organization, BSR will promote business leadership through insight into business trends affecting and benefiting from inclusion, integration within companies to build more inclusive business practices, and collaboration across industries and with other stakeholder groups to promote inclusion of marginalized groups in economic activity.
To focus our approach, we have identified three issue areas to prioritize for research and collaboration:
- Promoting women’s full economic participation
- Preparing employers and employees for the impacts of automation on job availability and quality
- Preserving inclusive economic opportunity in advanced economies
In pursuing new efforts to advance an inclusive economy, we will build on two decades of work with our member companies and partners to integrate human rights, inclusive supply chain practices, robust stakeholder and community engagement, and transparent reporting into business practices. As we build our inclusive economy initiative, we will examine how this work can increase economic opportunities for underrepresented populations.
To kick off our efforts, we will publish a series of interviews with inclusive-economy leaders on our blog and launch regional events, beginning tomorrow, May 6, in New York.
Over the coming months, we will publish more details on our approach for driving business action and collaboration, as well as thought pieces on the areas of focus introduced here. We invite you to reach out to learn more or to share your ideas on how we can support you more effectively. You can contact me or join the conversation on Twitter at #BSRinclusion.
We believe strongly in the potential of business to lead the way to a more inclusive economy. We look forward to collaborating with you on that journey, from conversation, to individual leadership efforts, to collective action.