Emerging policy frameworks, strategies, and success stories of inclusive businesses across the region were showcased at the Fourth ASEAN Inclusive Business Summit, held virtually on September 22, 2021, as part of the activities under Brunei Darussalam’s ASEAN Chairmanship 2021.

The Summit was organised by Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) 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.

The one-day Summit 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.

(Top L-R): Head of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) South and Southeast Asia Division, Dr. Alexander Böhmer; Permanent Secretary (Industry) at the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE), Pengiran Hajah Zety Sufina Pengiran Dato Paduka Haji Sani; and United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Deputy Executive Secretary, Kaveh Zahedi.

(Bottom L-R): UN ESCAP Economic Affairs Officer, Marta Pérez Cusó; Executive Director Inclusive Business Action Network (iBAN), Dr. Christian Jahn; and Head of Business Development and Support, Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) Norlela Suhailee.

Image courtesy of DARe

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.

In her opening remarks, Permanent Secretary (Industry) at the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) Pengiran Hajah Zety Sufina Pengiran Dato Paduka Hj Sani said the summit’s theme ‘Building Inclusive Businesses to Build Back Better’ is in line with this year’s ASEAN Chairmanship theme of “We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper” and reflects the potential of the sector’s innovative models to address challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Participants and presenters at the Fourth ASEAN Inclusive Business Summit. Image courtesy of DARe

“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.

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 also included Legislative Council Member and Chairperson of Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah’s Committee on Social Enterprise Yang Berhormat Nik Hafimi Abdul Haadii; Ghanim International Corporation CEO Dr. Nur Rahman; and DARe’s Head of Business Development and Support, Norlela 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-focused 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 recognize ten enterprises that have excelled in helping the lowest income members of society.

The Summit is an activity of the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on MSMEs (ACCMSME), the sectoral body under the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) pillar coordinating MSME development, and contributes to the implementation of the ASEAN Strategic Action Plan for SME Development 2016 – 2025.

Interested parties can rewatch the live broadcast of the Summit on DARe’s Facebook page under its video section.

As the incoming chair of ASEAN, Cambodia announced that the Fifth ASEAN Inclusive Business Summit will be organised in 2022. More information on the Summit and case studies can be found on www.aseanibsummit.com.

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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