In Asia, where nearly 60% of the population lives below the poverty line of $3-$4 per day, globally active private companies have increasingly acknowledged the importance of the so-called bottom of the pyramid as economically relevant consumers and actors in their markets. Many of these companies integrate the poor into their value chains as producers, employees, or entrepreneurs, and some provide commercially viable solutions to the problems faced by low-income people. These approaches to pro-poor growth comprise what are more broadly known as inclusive business models.
In 2012, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) launched its Inclusive Business Initiative leveraging lessons learned from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) . Shortly thereafter, ADB and the IDB entered into a formal partnership targeting inclusive business as a priority. Since 2013, ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department has invested a total of $491 million in 16 inclusive businesses. In addition to financial investments, ADB provides technical assistance to private-sentor companies promoting social impact, and supports public sector efforts to create enabling environments for inclusive business.
Inclusive businesses often operate in sectors that provide jobs and services relevant to low-income women. These sectors may include those that involve labor-intensive work such as agriculture and the garment industry or those that provide access to affordable finance, reproductive health, water supply, and education and skills training. As part of ADB’s focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment, this study explores the extent to which inclusive businesses are “women-inclusive” and aims to support companies looking to consider women’s empowerment as part of their core business activity.