United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Tokyo and the Business Call to Action (BCtA) last week hosted the first BCtA event in Japan to encourage the Japanese private sector to participate in innovative business approaches that create development impact.
The BCtA forum in Tokyo featured a number of innovative business practices, showcasing how companies can overcome market challenges that can benefit the poor and create social and economic impact in local communities. The event also highlighted the work that UNDP and the BCtA have initiated to promote public-private partnerships.
With participants from more than 70 private companies as well as from donor governments, academia and NGOs, the Tokyo BCtA event featured presentations by four new Japanese members of the BCtA — Ajinomoto Co., ITOCHU Corporation, Ryohin Keikaku (MUJI) and Unicharm Corporation.
“Many of the world’s ecosystems are in serious decline, affecting most of all the poorest people who depend on the natural environment for their sustenance,” said UNDP administrator Helen Clark. “In seeking solutions to these challenges, the innovation, technical expertise and investment of the private sector is greatly needed in the reinvigorated global partnerships we must build for sustainable development.”
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In developing countries, new Japanese BCtA member companies are taking action to support sustainable agriculture, job creation and women’s empowerment, as well as capacity building for local workers.
Launched in 2008, the Business Call to Action is a multi-stakeholder initiative that challenges companies to develop inclusive business models that allow for commercial success and also offer the potential for development impact. BCtA encourages companies to commit to innovative business solutions that are good for both their bottom line and for development. The program has gained significant momentum in Japan, where so far six Japanese companies have made commitments in sectors such as energy, financial services, and agriculture.
“In UNDP and the broader UN system, we are keen to see even greater engagement of the private sector in human and sustainable development. Indeed it would be hard to drive such development forward without business being on board,” Clark concluded.
In April, BCtA announced a set of commitments to provide income-earning opportunities and expand access to services such as mobile technology and micro-insurance to disadvantaged populations in Africa and Asia. This includes programs aimed at expanding access to financial services in Zambia, providing affordable microinsurance in Malaysia and helping honey farmers in Kenya.
Last month, U.S.-based social enterprise Envirofit International joined BCtA, with plans to reduce greenhouse gases by 193,500 tons of carbon through the sales of 150,000 clean cookstoves across Kenya in the next two years. By introducing clean cook stoves as a less costly fuel alternative, the company says it will help low-income consumer households that have been traditionally overlooked.