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Experts gather to discuss inclusive business models

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A rice farmer works in the field. According to iBAN and ESCAP, most of the companies with inclusive business potential in Cambodia operate in agribusiness and a few other sectors. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodia held yesterday its first forum devoted to inclusive businesses in which participants discussed the merits of inclusive business models and considered ways of strengthening the policy environment.

Government officials, business executives, and representatives from international organisations gathered in Phnom Penh for a discussion organised by the Ministry of Industry and Handcraft. The event was supported by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Inclusive Business Action Network (iBAN).

During the event, Heng Sokkung, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts, described inclusive business as “the deliberate approach of the private sector to promote the poverty reduction and social agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a commercial business approach.”

Mr Sokkung said inclusive businesses make economic growth more dynamic, adding that they are instrumental for Cambodia’s structural transformation and to help the country transition to an upper-middle-income economy.

The preliminary findings of a landscape study on inclusive businesses by ESCAP and iBAN were presented during the event. According to the study, Cambodia has about 20 potential inclusive businesses, mostly in agribusiness, insurance, microfinance, and energy services. Some of them, the study found, have highly innovative models.

The study, which is expected to be published at the end of the year, includes an analysis of the firms with inclusive business models in Cambodia and of the environment in which they operate.

It suggests that in the next three years, if inclusive business models are supported, companies in Cambodia could create about 100,000 new income generating activities. Moreover, such companies could serve around 70,000 low-income households through housing and municipal services, and provide insurance to 600,000 low-income people.

A strategy for enabling an inclusive business environment was presented during the event. It includes the establishment of a technical assistance facility to provide, among others, coaching for firms to develop inclusive business models, Mr Sokkung said.

The strategy also proposes the creation of an accreditation system for inclusive businesses, a risk reduction fund to facilitate impact investment, and a steering committee.

The plan has already been approved by the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts and will reach the Supreme National Economic Council before the end of the year.

Forum participants said the government should take inclusive businesses seriously as they can help reduce the poverty rate and create income opportunities.

They agreed that an inclusive business accreditation system will encourage companies to prioritise their social impact and added that accreditation can help businesses expand their markets and access new sources of funding, including from impact investors.

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