In this issue we explore the evolving role of business in development. Our emphasis is on “evolving role’: because traditionally Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been the way business has engaged the larger society within which it operates. As is well known, CSR is usually motivated by companies’ desire to have good public relations which can hopefully be turned to goodwill and eventually to market opportunity as brands get associated with good works. This model of engaging societal problems is changing fast. Over the course of the last decade, there have been calls for businesses to engage more deeply with social issues not as Public Relations exercise but as demonstration of real concern and real sustainable support.
In what is truly ‘a revolution’ in the making, businesses have responded to the call; and they are getting more and more involved in more pressing development issues like poverty, as opposed to the old CSR approach of supporting local pet projects that have limited geographical impact. This call for deeper involvement in social issues has seen business embrace the achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as core to their CSR programs and in a sense foster bigger and bolder CSR programs that involve multiple partners including partnerships with other businesses, NGOs and governments. But perhaps the reason this is proving to catch-on so well, is because businesses are recognizing it as a win-win: many businesses have also realized that engaging the poor can be profitable with the right business models. As a result businesses have become more active at the bottom of the income ladder, providing charity and also making profit.
We present three articles that explore a range of issues on the subject including how traditional CSR is changing; trends in ‘Inclusive Business’ as businesses seek to engage more with the poor; and how business and development partners can work together to exploit potential synergies.