Business CASE FOR inclusive Growth | Sunday Observer

Business CASE FOR inclusive Growth

The workshop in progress
The workshop in progress

Sri Lanka faces a number of development challenges, which have traditionally been addressed by government intervention and aid. But there is much that the private sector can do to bridge the gap as well – and there is a strong business case for it, Country Representative of the Australia’s Market Development Facility, Shahroz Jalil told a recent workshop on inclusive growth.

The was workshop was organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC), and Market Development Facility (MDF), a private sector development program, an initiative of the Australian aid program and the Sri Lankan Ministry of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs. The discussion of the workshop was on the theme - what role does the private sector could play to bring about inclusive growth and human development.

Despite CSR and community outreach finding a place in the global and local business lexicon, corporates both big and small continue to find it difficult to embed inclusivity into their core business. This is not necessarily due to reluctance, but also due to insufficient foresight into the real business gains that can be achieved by adopting more inclusive business models.

Human development requires economic growth that benefits all, including those that are often ‘left behind’ in the race for growth – the rural poor, women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities, to name a few. The private sector can be leveraged to achieve both developmental and economic impact.

This can take the form of, for example, inclusion in supply chains, factory work, new business developments or IT-based solutions, or even through diversifying business beyond urban centres.

Charlotte Blundell, Counsellor for Development Cooperation at the Australian High Commission, offered a perspective from a development partner point of view. The Australian aid program is devoted to solving complex development challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, in frontier and emerging markets including Sri Lanka. In 2014, Australia’s Foreign Minister provided a clear mandate for the High Commission to engage with the private sector in all of its aid activities in Sri Lanka.

This mandate recognizes that greater private investment and trade is essential to increasing growth and reducing poverty and vulnerability.

“We know that businesses in Sri Lanka who understand the link between their financial returns and their creation of social benefits are more likely to contribute to targeted and sustained poverty reduction. We are partnering with these businesses, not on CSR initiatives, but to deliver ‘shared value’ outcomes, by which I mean commercially sustainable solutions to development problems,” remarked Blundell.

Rajendra Theagarajah, CCC Chairman and Joint Deputy Chairperson of Cargills Bank, brought in the view of a private sector veteran, touching on the huge business potential available to the private sector in terms of locally sourced value chains, skills development and access to finance.