‘Inclusive Business’ has enormous potential to contribute positively to development outcomes. Working through core business models, the ‘Inclusive Business’ approach requires minimal outside support and can often reach a scale unattainable by most direct development interventions. Take for example, Vodafone's M-PESA service, which has reached more than 18.5 million individuals since 2007 and continues to be a profitable business model (BCtA 2011).
But when is business ‘inclusive’ and when is it simply business? How does Coca-Cola's business model in El Salvador contribute more to women's empowerment than its typical approach to selling fizzy drinks? Accurate information about business impacts – direct and indirect, positive and negative – can help practitioners to better identify (and support) the approaches that can most positively contribute to development.
This paper analyses some of the current approaches and frameworks for evaluating ‘Inclusive Business’ impacts. It finds that while they shed light on the complex network of effects that businesses have and the ways in which some firms are attempting to contribute to development, they are unable to provide information about the actual impacts of business activities. More, higher quality, and less partial ‘Inclusive Business’ evaluations are needed to better enable us to harness the potential for business to contribute positively to development.