Singapore, January 23, 2017 /3BL Media/ – Employee-benefit programme iCare Benefits has joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA) with a commitment to provide 80 million workers worldwide with access to essential products and services by 2020. By 2019, the company aims to enable access to free education for over 32 million workers and their families through its online platform.
Launched in 2008, the BCtA aims to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals by challenging companies to develop inclusive business models that engage people with less than US$8 per day in purchasing power as consumers, producers, suppliers and distributors. It is supported by several international organizations and hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
In Asia, factory workers commonly earn between US$100 and US$400 per month, which means they do not qualify for financing from banks or other financial institutions. Even though these workers have steady incomes, they are not able to make investments in essential products and services such as healthcare, education and time- and money-saving home appliances. For these workers, the most common alternative to cash payments is informal loans from friends, family or the black market, which charges exorbitant interest rates that sap workers’ incomes.
Launched in 2012 in Vietnam, iCare Benefits was born out of consultations with labor union representatives. Now headquartered in Singapore, the company is active in Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Philippines (and is starting up in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Brazil). There are plans to expand its reach to over 30 countries across Asia, Latin America and Africa.
The company’s inclusive business model employs an innovative approach to financing within a seamless retail platform. Workers at participating factories can purchase products online or from workplace-based showrooms. iCare Benefits’ repayment limit of 30 percent of gross monthly salary reinforces responsible spending habits and ensures that workers do not over-leverage their incomes.
“By providing access to essential products and services that improve the quality of workers’ and their families’ lives, iCare is helping to end the cycle of poverty and build the next middle class in the countries where it operates,” said iCare Benefits CEO Trung Dung. “As a result of our efforts, number of workers in factories where we operate using black-market loans and pawn assets to purchase essential products has decreased from 30 percent to 3.5 percent.”
In addition, iCare Benefits is engaging a range of partners to create a unique global education platform for workers and their families. By 2018, the platform will provide access to critical knowledge such as financial literacy, health, basic language skills, digital literacy and occupational education, including safety and workers’ rights.
“Reducing workers’ reliance on informal lending while building their knowledge improves financial and social resilience, especially for women, who make up over 85 percent of employees in factories served by iCare Benefits,” said Paula Peleaz, Programme Manager of the BCtA. “iCare Benefits is giving women greater purchasing power and enabling families to build a solid foundation of education and health – both fundamental enablers of sustainable development”.
To achieve its ambitious BCtA commitment, the company is building a public-private alliance with investors, global NGOs, foundations, government bodies, global brands, manufacturers and service providers. It has pledged to bring together at least ten global and five local partners in each country of operation in order to promote collaboration in providing access to essential products, services and education for working families.
For further information:
Membership in the Business Call to Action does not constitute a partnership with its funding and programme partners, UNDP or any UN agency.
About the Business Call to Action (BCtA): Launched at the United Nations in 2008, the Business Call to Action (BCtA) aims to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by challenging companies to develop inclusive business models that offer the potential for both commercial success and development impact. BCtA is a unique multilateral alliance between key donor governments including the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), UK Department for International Development, US Agency for International Development, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Finland, and the United Nations Development Programme — which hosts the secretariat. For more information, please visit www.businesscalltoaction.org or on Twitter at @BCtAInitiative.
About iCare Benefits: iCare Benefits is a for-profit social enterprise that enables manufacturers, social organizations, banks and service providers to serve workers at the bottom of economic pyramid. The company aims to give employees immediate access to essential products and services that will improve their quality of lives and well-being, and enable comfortable, healthy, smart and prosperous living both in the workplace and at home. The success of iCare Benefits is founded on these core values, which orient the way iCare Benefits staff think and work with their co-workers, and serve their customers. The company was awarded the Global Top100 award by Red Herring – a prestigious list honoring the year’s most promising private technology ventures. For more information about iCare Benefits, visit www.icarebenefits.com.