28 May 2009

Business and Development: UNDP's Growing Sustainable Business Initiative

I have been quite about my latest assignment so far... but since a Financial Times article came out yesterday, it’s time to talk about UNDP’s Growing Sustainable Business (GBS) initiative:

Enterprise introduces a whiff of revolution
In her book Dead Aid, Dambisa Moyo calls for the end of aid to Africa within five years. Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda – which has halved aid as a percentage of its gross domestic product in the past decade – recently argued in the Financial Times that aid creates instability and dependency while failing to reduce poverty or disease. Ms Moyo and Mr Kagame are among those questioning traditional models of development. While not all favour the pure for-profit approach, many argue that there is a greater role for market-based approaches to global problems. If such models prevail, the question for big non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and international public sector institutions is how to fit into the new development landscape…

“Business and society have to go through this utterly profound management transformation to move away from a few people running everyone else,” says Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka the pioneering social entrepreneurship non-profit. “Because that model can’t function in a world with rapid change coming from all directions.” In contrast to the more nimble social entrepreneurs, organisations such as the World Bank and the UN can seem lumbering and out of touch. Some believe this stems from outdated management processes and sprawling bureaucratic structures…

Some institutions are also recognising their potential convening role in market-led initiatives. This is something the United Nations Development Programme is doing through its Growing Sustainable Business initiative. The idea behind the GSB is that the UNDP can broker partnerships between companies and NGOs or local government agencies to accelerate the provision of goods, services and employment in poor countries.

In Africa, one of the GSB partnerships – between Unilever, the consumer products group, and social and environmental institutions – is developing the Allanblackia tree into a new crop that will be a supplementary source of oil for Unilever products as well as an additional income stream for farmers…”