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Good news: Private-sector anti-poverty in Asia/ Not so good news: “It’s not ‘CSR’ “

There is much good news about private sector anti-poverty effectiveness in Asia, but it’s blurred a bit by a limited understanding of “CSR.”

 Deveximpact today reports that “private sector engagement and collaboration in poverty reduction have become one of the marquee trends in international development.” But it then presents this arguably worrisome distinction:  “The Asian Development Bank believes that firms with an ‘inclusive business’ approach can offer much more than widely practiced CSR activities– two different approaches that, if well managed could really make a difference in achieving development goals, with the former anchoring the latter.”

 If it’s just semantics, no cause for alarm. But it seems more substantive when the chief economist of the bank’s regional and sustainable development, Armin Bauer, offers that ” ‘inclusive business’ is not [just] about corporate social responsibility or about giving a scholarship here and here to a poor person. That’s not what we’re talking about”.

 Devex then amplifies with this: “In the Philippines alone, about 20,000 companies have existing CSR programs… Out of all these, however, only 0.5 percent or about 100 firms are considered ‘inclusive’ businesses.”

 Seems to be a disconnect in there somewhere. But whatever it is called, growing private sector partnerships’ success in confronting international  poverty is good news indeed — under-reported, but very significant.

 For a broader view of business and anti-poverty, check out