How can executives overcome institutional barriers and strategically support inclusive growth initiatives?
Lately, there has been much discussion about what it means to be a business today—and how the decisions business leaders make not only impact the bottom line but can chart an inclusive path for society and the economy at-large.
Today, consumers, clients, and investors expect business to play a role in creating an inclusive society. This is particularly true with the onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the disruption and technological changes that come with it. Executives must make long-term strategic decisions about how to drive greater inclusivity in this new environment.
We have seen that the majority of executives are passionate about supporting inclusive growth initiatives and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, many executives still face external and internal pressures as they strive to prioritise inclusive growth initiatives. According to Deloitte Global’s recent inclusive growth survey, The Business Case for Inclusive Growth, impairing global executives from fully supporting inclusive growth efforts. The first is a short-term focus on meeting shareholder expectations, the second is a need to navigate complex regulatory environments and government mandates, and the third is a lack of clarity about how to address inclusive growth.
This third point is particularly interesting, and one I want to draw out here.
There are numerous examples of how companies embed an inclusive mindset into their strategic priorities. For example, corporate social responsibility programmes continue to play an essential role in driving inclusive growth. However, many businesses are also reimagining their approach and have found innovative new ways to build inclusive growth into their broader value chains.
For example, Novartis, a company using science-based innovation to deliver better patient outcomes in growing areas of healthcare, is piloting new business models to expand access to health care for underserved populations. They are currently working in India and replicating the model in Kenya, Indonesia and Vietnam. The company has served 6.6 million to date while also delivering superior returns to their shareholders.
Danone, a French food company, focuses on producing healthy food for consumers through its “health through food” strategy. The company integrates a variety of social initiatives into its operations, which include strengthening smaller partners in its supply chain, conserving water, and educating young parents on proper nutrition.
The GSMA represents mobile operators worldwide and has established a purpose for the industry to “connect everyone and everything to a better future.” A critical part of this strategy is the broad support and promotion of the SDGs. They were in the vanguard in late 2015 to see the SDGs as crucial for the future of both their industry and society at-large. As part of this support, they publish an annual Mobile Industry ‘Impact Report’, in addition to bringing global operators together to develop initiatives, which will directly accelerate progress towards the goals. For example, Big Data for Social Good leverages mobile operators’ big data capabilities to address humanitarian crises, including epidemics and natural disasters.
Deloitte’s own Monitor Institute works with clients to scale their social impact initiatives and take the necessary actions to advance progress towards a sustainable society and inclusive growth. Another resource is the OECD, which can provide support to businesses to help determine how to prioritise inclusive growth efforts. As our survey showed, inclusive growth is an important issue for executives, but barriers remain as leaders implement inclusive growth initiatives. I believe that the more we can share ideas and examples of how others are engaging in this space, the more impact we can all have. Society and the future of our businesses are depending on us to find ways to ensure inclusive growth is top of mind moving forward.