I was travelling through Central America, where I was confronted with poverty issues for the first time. With my economic background, I thought I should couple poverty alleviation with business goals. At the same time, literature about the Base of the Pyramid & Inclusive Business emerged. While spending time with people living in poverty, it was absolutely clear for me that they needed to play a major role in those ventures. And that’s where I found (inspired by newer literature from Stuart L. Hart), bottom-up development approaches.
It would be great if managers reading my book start to acknowledge the important role their new target group needs to play in their ventures, start to trust in their capabilities, and step back. With my book, they get the necessary arguments, knowledge and examples from practice. I believe that companies can be better development actors than donors such as governments and international NGOs, as they have a great interest in efficient and effective solutions. Stepping back and handing over responsibility to the target group supports these goals.
Who or what have been major influences on your thinking about sustainability and/or CSR and/or life?
The main influence has always been the literature of Stuart L. Hart, who never saw sustainability as an obligation, but as an opportunity. I never believed that the necessary change in the world would come through doing what you always do, but through acting in a more socially and environmentally conscious way (Philanthropy/CSR). What we need are disruptive changes, which may not be very “cosy” at the beginning, but will maintain a healthy world to live in, in the long run.
What, in your opinion, are the three best books on sustainability/CSR?
Capitalism at the Crossroads by Stuart L. Hart
Out of Poverty by Paul Polak
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
What do you think are the major challenges we face in advancing sustainability/CSR – now, and in the next 10 years?
The population growth, and in relation to that, the fact that economic growth is still coupled with the depletion/pollution of natural resources.
What are you working on now?
As Global Manager for Agriculture at the Fair Labor Association, and as Associated Expert of Endeva – Enterprise Solutions for Development, I’m focusing on inclusive business solutions for agricultural and rural development.
With thanks to Piera Waibel.
Piera Waibel is the Global Manager for Agriculture at the Fair Labor Association. Piera’s new book Putting the Poor First offers an important insight into the bottom-up development approach for organisations looking to optimise their business model innovation processes in view of enabling “win-win” solutions at scale. Putting the Poor First comes out this month. For more information please visit the Greenleaf website, where you can pre-order your copy now and benefit from an exclusive 30% discount.