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Why inclusive business is key for successful transformation

Inclusive business, once a small niche, suddenly affirms the potential for a successful and sustainable economic transformation. What makes inclusive business so productive for managing the transformation? It enables companies to make a difference on 3 levels: global, organizational and personal. An example from our work on circular economy illustrates our approach.

“The focus on marginalized groups led us to a completely new solution and value chain setup that  might have influence for other parts of core business” Stefan Koch, Covestro

Within its Inclusive Business strategy, our partner Stefan Koch from Covestro wanted to show the value of linking the business of material science to low-income markets. We linked the global plastic waste challenge with the technology of 3D printing to develop a local plastic recycling economy, and with the aim to ultimately involve and benefit the informal waste sector. Endeva is now supporting to prove the concept of a sustainable business case and show its value in cooperation with a local start-up.

1. Global: A multi-trillion business opportunity

The World Bank estimates that globally, the amount of solid waste is going to grow from 2 billion tons today to 3.4 billion in 2050, with most of the growth coming from emerging economies. Managing this pile of junk is a massive opportunity for those who manage to reclaim valuable material and drive circularity.

Including those who remain excluded from opportunity is the single biggest business opportunity around. The Business Commission on Sustainable Development found opportunities worth $12US trillion in only four sectors (food and agriculture, energy and materials, cities, health and wellbeing). Inclusive business enables companies to detect value creation potential in line with societal goals.

2. Organizational: Proven, scalable models

Unlocking these opportunities requires new business models. We at Endeva have a decade of experience innovating for inclusive business. Proven, scalable models exist in a wide range of sectors, from food to health to energy. Integrating informal waste pickers into a formal business may seem impossible at first. Using proven setups, such as cooperatives or social enterprises, can enable inclusion and transformation at scale.

3. Personal: An agile mindset

It can be hard to become “agile” in established business: we trust what has worked, even though it may not work in the future. When you start to do business involving waste pickers in the value chain, being agile is the only way. We have no conception of their reality, their business, their preferences and needs. We have to listen and discuss solutions with them. Inclusive business also demands collaboration beyond the traditional transactional relationship. To train and organize waste pickers, NGOs can be effective partners. By venturing into low-income markets, companies can build critical skills and attitudes like flexibility, entrepreneurship and resilience among their staff in ways they find truly inspiring and meaningful.

Our ambition is to find ways to create change at the systems level – transformative change: Moving from the individual waste picker project to rethinking the waste management system. Sounds big? Of course, we can only achieve it with you! Based on our experience, we have created ii2030.com as a platform for systems change. Starting from a concrete tech-based opportunity, we bring the right actors together that are eager to prototype a new system. Waste-to-3D-filament will be one of the tracks in 2019. We invite you to join us and make the most of the transformation, for you, your company, and the world!

This blogpost was written by Endeva Director Christina Tewes-Gradl and is part of our 2019 new year’s mailing.