Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I am pleased to join the Fifth ASEAN Inclusive Business Summit.
Today, people at the base of the economic pyramid continue to suffer the most from the economic effects of the pandemic. This has been compounded by the ongoing climate crisis and current challenges related to food and energy systems. In this challenging context, many are unable to access and afford essential goods and services and to make a living.
In addition to government action, the private sector plays a fundamental role in supporting economic recovery for a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient future.
In this regard, innovative business models such as inclusive businesses are emerging and demonstrating that it is possible to provide goods, services and livelihoods on a commercially viable basis to people often overlooked by pure profit-orientated businesses.
For example, in the agricultural sector - one of the largest in terms of employment in many ASEAN countries - farmers are vulnerable to economic and climate shocks.
The good news is that businesses are innovating how they operate to meet this challenge. Inclusive business models enable low-income farmers to have stable and decent incomes and foster more inclusive and sustainable agricultural development. The ASEAN inclusive business awardees are a testament to the variety of businesses innovating to support low-income groups.
The other good news is that governments are backing the development and expansion of such business models. ASEAN member States have shown great leadership in this area. ASEAN Economic Ministers’ endorsement of the “Guidelines for the Promotion of Inclusive Business in ASEAN” is a testament to this commitment. It has been an honor for ESCAP to support ASEAN member States to lead on this agenda.
Importantly, this policy framework is now being matched by concrete action to support inclusive businesses. May I share a few good examples in this endeavour, Cambodia has accredited several inclusive business models. Earlier this year, a programme to promote inclusive businesses has been approved in Vietnam. Malaysia is organizing several inclusive business promotion activities. And Thailand will be conducting a landscape study of inclusive business to help inform its efforts to promote inclusive business.
Today, the challenge is to continue to expand the number, reach and impact of inclusive businesses. For this to happen, we need to:
- Recognize such efforts, through awards or accreditation systems, and incentives for further investments in inclusive businesses.
- Put in place means to promote more inclusive business models,
- Develop partnerships that convene different partners along a value chain.
- Develop partnerships to catalyze investments.
- Measure the impact of such efforts in order to channel funding toward those areas with the greatest impact and need.
At ESCAP, we are committed to mainstreaming inclusive businesses as they will be critical as we strive towards more sustainable, inclusive and resilient economies.
As part of our commitment, we have engaged in a significant partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to promote inclusive business models in agriculture. This partnership will address the needs of thousands of farmers by augmenting the success of inclusive agri-businesses.
The partnership will seek to share, promote and replicate the elements that government and business leaders have used to develop commercially viable businesses that reduce the risks for low-income farmers and expand their earnings.
Before concluding, let me thank the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation of Cambodia, the ASEAN Secretariat, iBAN, the OECD and Oxfam for organizing the fifth edition of the ASEAN Inclusive Business Summit.
It is a great pleasure for ESCAP to join forces with these partners – and the ASEAN community - to move inclusive businesses from the margins to the mainstream.