Development is Good for Business

June 3, 2011 By Joel Paque

The role of business in development has sparked much debate recently, but what does it mean?  For some it translates into corporate social responsibility, with business helping the local communities abroad as a gesture of good citizenship.  Others see the potential for partnerships where the result is good not just for local communities abroad, but for business itself.

USAID recently announced a new Center of Excellence for International Corporate Volunteerism, in conjunction with IBM that will work with corporations who wish to offer international volunteer opportunities to their employees. While this initiative will focus on corporate volunteerism and not investments in the developing world, the private sector has shown an increasing realization that investments in development efforts over the long term help grow the global marketplace for their products. Partnering with the private sector will also allow USAID to deploy expertise more quickly and cheaply, which is especially important in this time of budget cuts.

One management consulting firm recently released a report extolling the “double-bottom-line” benefits of investing in development. Accenture’s “Convergence Economy: Rethinking International Development in a Converging World” report explores the intersections between longstanding development challenges, like global health and economic growth, and corporate interests. It proposes a new and emerging model to address what they call a “convergence” of issues. Accenture defines this, in the context of global development, as “the convergence of issues and interests and, most importantly, of solutions, with an unwavering emphasis on the outputs and impact rather than on organization structures and long-established and often stereotypical roles.” Accenture believes this new approach can help spur real development results by harnessing the expertise and skills of the private sector.

In another example of how development can be good for business, Nestle recently sponsored a forum on the concept of Creating Shared Value (CSV), an approach that brings together governments, NGOs and business leaders for a comprehensive strategy to achieve global development goals.  Based on a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, CSV is neither corporate social responsibility or philanthropy but puts the needs of society at the very center of company policy to create both economic success and developmental progress.  CSV puts the burden of leadership on business leaders to make the private sector an active participant in meeting global challenges and creating long-term value for all parties.  Though public-private partnerships for development are not a new concept, CSV creates longer-term metrics for success and recognizes the changing role of government, NGOs and business.  By bringing all parties to the table to develop strategies for the short, medium and long term in development projects, the advantages of each sector are best utilized.  CSV is still in its infancy, but this approach outlines a promising framework for businesses to create “long term value, concurrently, for the shareholder and society.”