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Bandar Seri Begawan - 22 Sep 2021

News Number: G/34/2021

ASEAN focuses to build back better with inclusive business

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Wong Yu Liang

Today, the Fourth ASEAN Inclusive Business Summit demonstrated the practical application of inclusive business in the public and private sectors to help ASEAN build back better from the COVID-19 crisis.

Building on the Guidelines for the Promotion of Inclusive Business in ASEAN, endorsed in 2020, the summit discussed its application in national contexts, in particular, the establishment of an inclusive business accreditation and registration system and the provision of business coaching services for firms to develop inclusive business models. These actions will help identify, incentivise, and support businesses, including social enterprises, that can amplify their social impacts by developing inclusive business models.

ASEAN has made significant advancements at both the national and regional levels in promoting inclusive business models. Quoting Pengiran Hajah Zety Sufina Binti Pengiran Dato Paduka Haji Sani, Permanent Secretary (Industry) at the Ministry of Finance and Economy, Brunei Darussalam, “As a result of efforts to promote inclusive business at the national levels, ASEAN Member States are actively engaging in inclusive business policy development and capacity building to better understand the inclusive business concept and approaches among its policymakers and businesses”.

To promote utilisation of the guidelines, Briefing Notes on the guidelines are translated into the national languages of ASEAN countries, which provides the overview of inclusive business landscapes for each country and a summary of the policy options outlined in the Guidelines. 

At the regional level, an e-learning module has been developed to encourage learning on inclusive business among ASEAN policymakers, accessible on the ASEAN SME Academy. In collaboration with the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC), ASEAN aims to highlight good practices through the ASEAN Business Awards in November this year, which will recognise ten inclusive businesses with the ASEAN Inclusive Business Awards.

The summit discussed diverse inclusive business models operating in this region, showcasing essential elements that make a business model both inclusive and commercially viable. It explored how inclusive businesses and social enterprises are helping low-income and marginalised populations to recover from the economic crisis. Further, it discussed digital solutions, investment models, and partnerships that enable businesses to address the challenges posed by COVID-19.

“At ESCAP we are convinced that inclusive businesses have the potential to bridge the growing gap between the economy and people, and help countries with their resilient, inclusive and sustainable recovery,” said Kaveh Zahedi, Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

On social entrepreneurship, Antonella Noya, Head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Unit for Social Economy and Innovation said, “Social enterprises and inclusive businesses can help foster the inclusive and sustainable growth needed to build back better. To capitalise on this potential, policy makers should help social enterprises scale and involve stakeholders from the start.”

Inclusive businesses provide goods, services, and livelihoods on a commercially viable basis to people living at the base of the pyramid, making them part of the value chain of companies as suppliers, distributors, retailers, or customers.

“Inclusive businesses are triple win for the poor, the government and the businesses. Besides improving the lives of the poor through improved income or services, they contribute to inclusive economic growth and a reduction in poverty, and at the same time the company can make profit and is therefore also a sustainable business,” said Christian Jahn, Executive Director, Inclusive Business Action Network (iBAN).

Brunei Darussalam, the ASEAN Chair 2021, hosted the summit, which was co-organised by Darussalam Enterprise (DARe), ESCAP, iBAN, OECD, and the ASEAN Secretariat. The summit was attended by the government and the private sector representatives from ASEAN and beyond, investors, and development organisations. As the incoming chair of ASEAN, Cambodia has announced the Fifth ASEAN IB Summit to be organised in 2022.

The summit was an activity of the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME), the sectoral body under the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) pillar coordinating MSME development in the region and contributed to the implementation of the ASEAN Strategic Action Plan for SME Development 2016 – 2025.

Visit for summit materials and documents related to inclusive business in ASEAN.

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