ASEAN upholds commitment to help inclusive businesses achieve greater impact

The 4th ASEAN Inclusive Business Summit’s theme ‘Building Inclusive Businesses to Build Back Better’ is in line with this year’s ASEAN Chairmanship theme ‘We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper’ and reflects the potential of the public and private sector’s innovative models to address challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Permanent Secretary (Industry) at the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) Pengiran Hajah Zety Sufina binti Pengiran Dato Paduka Haji Sani said this in her opening remarks at the virtual summit last Wednesday.

“As a result of efforts to promote inclusive business at a national level, ASEAN member states are actively engaging in inclusive business policy development and capacity building to better understand the inclusive business concept and approaches among its policy makers and businesses,” she said.

Pengiran Hajah Zety also shared the progress of inclusive business in Brunei Darussalam.

Though poverty in the Sultanate is marginal, there has been a growing trend of social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility initiatives that incorporate elements of inclusive business in addressing social challenges such as unemployment and assisting vulnerable groups including low-income families and single mothers.

The one-day summit showcased emerging policy frameworks, strategies, and success stories of inclusive businesses across the region.

Permanent Secretary (Industry) at the Ministry of Finance and Economy Pengiran Hajah Zety Sufina binti Pengiran Dato Paduka Haji Sani during the 4th ASEAN Inclusive Business Summit. PHOTO: DARE

The summit – held as part of the activities under Brunei Darussalam’s ASEAN Chairmanship 2021 – was organised by DARe (Darussalam Enterprise) in collaboration with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Inclusive Business Action Network (iBAN), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the ASEAN Secretariat.

It brought together leading public and private sector representatives from ASEAN and beyond to discuss how to realise the potential of inclusive business in the region to build back from the COVID-19 crisis.

The progressive implementation of the Guidelines for the Promotion of Inclusive Business in ASEAN, the regional bloc’s foremost recommendation for the sector’s development, was a central focus of the summit.

These guidelines build upon the ASEAN Inclusive Business Framework and serve as a reference document for ASEAN policymakers of how inclusive business can be set up and supported at national and regional levels.

Inclusive businesses are defined as enterprises that provide goods, services, and support livelihoods on a commercially viable basis to people living at the base of the economic pyramid; making them part of the value chain of companies as suppliers, distributors, retailers or customers.

The summit deliberated on two core measures suggested under inclusive business guidelines: the establishment of an inclusive business accreditation and registration system; and the provision of business coaching services for firms to develop inclusive business models.

Three parallel sessions were held as part of the summit with panels of leading experts covering topics such as coaching businesses to be more inclusive, accreditation and registration of inclusive business models, and the sharing of emerging and successful inclusive businesses.

Speakers at the summit from Brunei Darussalam included Legislative Council member and Chairperson of Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah’s Committee on Social Enterprise Yang Berhormat Nik Hafimi binti Abdul Haadii; Ghanim International Corporation CEO Dr Nur Rahman; and DARe’s Head of Business Development and Support Norlela binti Suhailee.

Brunei’s ASEAN Inclusive Business Award 2020 recipient Project Family Empowerment and Economic Development (FEED) was also featured.

As part of efforts to continuously promote inclusive business, the ASEAN SME Academy, a regional-focussed online learning platform, will be offering a module on inclusive business. The ASEAN Business Awards in November this year will also feature an Inclusive Business Award that will recognise 10 enterprises that have excelled in helping the lowest income members of society.