In resource-constrained communities, commercially viable business models are having success around the world improving livelihoods
A tiny solar lamp provides light to a family under a tarpaulin tent in India, saving them from health issues caused by wood fires. An acai berry farm in the jungles of Colombia is the only legal means of employment for indigenous communities for miles. A quick swipe on a mobile phone brings a Mexican coffee farmer into the formal economy.These are all solutions being implemented in geographies of extreme poverty, where individuals earn less than $1.9 a day. These aren’t part of any social policies or welfare programmes; they are innovative solutions offered by inclusive businesses – where companies include the very poor across their value chain through commercially viable models.
Low-income women as leaders of change
BCtA member Pollinate Group, a social enterprise operating in India and Nepal, empowers women living in poverty as leaders of change to distribute products, such as solar lights and modern cooking appliances, that improve health, save time and money for their communities.
Across India and Nepal 256 million people live in extreme poverty and “the heart of our social business is a network of women entrepreneurs who, through the company’s inclusive business model, are helping build-up their local communities with access to affordable, reliable household products”, explains CEO Sujatha Ramani.
Since 2012 the company’s women-led, last-mile distribution network has reached more than 650,000 low-income people, with customers saving more than $23m by replacing kerosene for lighting solutions.
These women through the company provide other much-needed products as well, including solar fans, LED bulbs and water filters. The product range is informed by the communities, with the intent to improve the quality of life for households living on less than $3.20 per day.
By partnering and providing products to low-income communities in India and Nepal, Pollinate Group is seeing up close the impact of Covid-19, as a business working with the extreme poor. “The private sector has an enormous opportunity to impact the neglected communities that Pollinate Group serves… [and] Covid-19 is undoing a lot of progress made before 2020,” explains Ramani, as the company remains steadfast in its mission. “We will continue to serve the people who fall through the cracks of government programmes or are seen too risky or transient by other organisations,” she explains.
Meanwhile, multinational corporations, with their vast reach and scale, continue to bring solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. BCtA member Mastercard has been expanding financial access to under-served communities across some of the poorest regions in the world.
Driving development in some of the poorest regions in the world
Community-minded businessIn jungles of the Colombian Amazon, a company is supplying superfood acai berry, which will make its way to the plates of the health conscious the world over. BCtA member company CorpoCampo incorporates local communities into their value chain while working in one of the poorest states in Colombia.