Last week’s report from the High Level Panel on the post-2015 development, rightly puts cross-sectoral collaboration squarely at the heart of achieving sustainable development, and reiterates the vital role business can and must play as a partner in development: “each priority area identified in the post-2015 agenda should be supported by dynamic partnerships”.
Inclusive business (IB) projects, by definition, tend to sit in areas outside of companies’ traditional comfort zones. Whether providing incomes to disadvantaged people by including them in the company’s value chain, or developing new markets with pro-poor products or services, they are rarely business as usual, requiring a much stronger interaction with ‘society’ than traditional business.
Nearly two decades ago, the UN’s Rio Declaration had the goal of “establishing a new and equitable global partnership through the creation of new levels of cooperation among States, key sectors of societies and people”. And then a decade ago, the major outcome of the Johannesburg follow-up Summit (Rio+10) was around the launching of 350 ‘partnerships for sustainable development’.
What may once have been seen as a problem for individuals now threatens whole societies, and the threat is as great in developing as in developed countries. Although personal responsibility must play a role, good intentions are easily overcome by a world which is more and more unsupportive of living healthily: high-fat, high-salt foods are an easier choice for reasons of taste, cost, accessibility and preparation time; urbanisation and a built environment militate against physical activity; social networking and video-games are taking over from sport-based leisure activities; and jobs are increasingly desk-based and stressful.