Extreme poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 1990. While this is a remarkable achievement, approximately 836 million people still live at or below $1.25 per day.
Beyond income alone, what matters to people is whether they are able to realize their aspirations for themselves and their families. This means having food security, access to basic services such as healthcare, transportation and education, and living in peaceful, stable societies.
In all of these aspects, business can play a critical role in the fight to end poverty. Private sector funding often far exceeds foreign aid to developing countries. Businesses can create decent sustainable jobs, foster economic activity through their supply chains, and contribute tax revenues for basic services and infrastructure, for example.
Certain groups are disproportionately affected by poverty and face additional constraints – such as limited access to resources and markets. These include migrants, women, children, persons with disabilities, ethnic and religious minorities, and indigenous peoples. Businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights, including for these groups, in accordance with international standards such as those of the International Labour Organisation and the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights.
Some actions businesses can take to ensure they do not exacerbate poverty include respecting worker and migrant rights, implementing a zero tolerance policy for forced labour and child labour, and paying a living wage.
Businesses can also apply innovation and creativity to proactively provide solutions to poverty where they operate. Particularly through inclusive business models by developing innovative products and services to better serve communities affected by poverty, and leveraging the unique perspectives of the poor as consumers, employees, entrepreneurs.
Indeed engaging the 4 billion people at the base of the economic pyramid in a responsible and inclusive manner may be the biggest business opportunity of our day.