How to become an inclusive green business: tips and tricks


Charcoal vending - Kisumu Lake Side 2018

_The guidelines and principles here below are the result of the VIAWATER W2E project implementation. They are a combination of W2E lessons learned and some evaluations of comparable projects in Africa in the Water- food- energy nexus. We hope that the VIAWATER community recognises these and see opportunities and benefits to adopt certain proposed steps and boundary considerations when setting up or up-scaling their business with more inclusive green growth success._

Evolving East Africa is enjoying surprising high economic growth rates, further encouraging private and public sector. This growth is not all roses; it is mostly accompanied by socioecological impoverishment. As a result, a new policy orientation is emerging, one that realises that the achievement of SDGs, is largely depending on keeping the main denominators water and land resources healthy. These African resources form the prerequisite of the inclusive development of prosperous, happy and healthy communities, in both traditional and modern. Entrepreneurs should realise that this development delivers great opportunities. When the intrinsic associations between human and environmental health are imbedded firmly in your trade and development cooperation it can directly promote inclusive growth and that will bring a head-on advantage for modern durable partnerships.

Here below, we propose 6 action-oriented steps for improving the level of green inclusiveness in your business, followed by some considerations for setting up the right conditions to govern your partners and concluding with some factors that may improve on your (PPP) partnership success that could speed-up your entrepreneurship in East Africa.

**6 steps to become inclusive green**
We have seen that radical change is actually not needed. Several steps in the business plan need to become specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) and incorporated into your inclusive approach, these are:

1. Creating an inclusive mission and vision: a proactive identifiable approach towards improving social capital (poverty, health, income, inequality, education) and natural capital (goods and services deficits, resilience, health, carrying capacity and integrity).
2. Demonstrating a liability beyond the direct effects of your corporate involvement, based on tangible returns of human, natural and economic capital investments.
3. Showing off an inclusive business case as “proof” or billboard of your corporation’s abilities to concretise the inclusive growth mission and vision at macro level into inclusive business model at corporate level.
4. Arranging sustained participatory involvement of other public and private stakeholders (partners and end-users). Creation of “sharing” evidence-based network of governments, NGOs and knowledge institutes and companies whose objective is to generate more inclusive PPPs.
5. Involving an independent fact-driven institute to consolidate the knowledge from the different sectors (NGOs, universities, Government, private sector and other public-private entities focussing on your region) and continuously improve its applicability within your inclusive business case.
6. Participating in an action-oriented R&D programme on how to become more inclusive all the time. We learn-by-doing, as social/ecological systems are complex, dynamic and respond in unexpected ways affecting your business performance.

Realise that inclusive growth should not only be about feeling obligated to include more Corporate Social Responsibility and green and blue environmental friendliness but more about continued accountable corporate performance that render economic, social and ecological and inspirational returns of investments (4 ROIs). Additionally, this much needed inclusiveness can’t be purchased off the shelf. It must be created and “cultivated”, monitored and evolve by an evidence-based learning-by-doing attitude at location. This is not something Businesses are used to organise since there are costs involved ROI are not directly noticeable. To achieve this, we recommend the following: Make sure that people and their environment are central to the narrative on inclusive growth. Create a level playing field between public and private parties that have a stake in what you do and create and support modern, lasting, partnerships that encourage inclusive innovation. Sustainable competitive advantage will come when your business models contribute more to inclusive growth.

**Inclusive Governance**
Water is one of the most serious sustainability challenges facing the development of Kisumu and nearby Counties. The people, communities and companies will be more water stressed in the near future. Given the size and nature of water challenges, tackling them requires a co-ordinated effort among policy makers and stakeholders: those who play a role in, and those who are affected by, actions and outcomes in the water sector. Most likely your company will be affected in one way or another. Your corporate involvement will likely face increasing demands from the communities and people to be more engaged in how (public) water policy decisions are taken. In this environment, stakeholder engagement is an important principle in water governance and a decisive factor in your ability to successfully address and overcome challenges in the supply and management of Kisumu water. When setting up shop in Africa you will notice a range of formal and informal stakeholders that may be relevant to your business. Different engagement mechanisms exist, and these stakeholders can be tailored to specific contexts, stakeholder categories, policy goals and local needs. We that if you take a systematic, inclusive approach you are likely to get a better return on the time and resources you invest. You will also be better equipped to handle stakeholder issues and risks more effectively. We propose a few principles for creating the necessary conditions for outcome-oriented, fit-for purpose, anticipatory and adaptive stakeholder engagement:

1. Inclusiveness and equity: Map regularly all stakeholders who have a stake in your outcome or that are likely to be affected, as well as their responsibility, core motivations and interactions.
2. Clarity of goals, transparency and accountability: Define the line of decision making, the objectives of stakeholder engagement and the expected use of inputs.
3. Capacity and information: Allocate proper financial and human resources and share needed information for result-oriented stakeholder engagement.
4. Efficiency and effectiveness: Regularly assess the process and outcomes of stakeholder engagement to learn, adjust and improve accordingly.
5. Institutionalisation, structuring, and integration: Organise engagement processes in your operational plans, organisational structures/principles and responsibilities.
6. Adaptiveness: Customise the type and level of engagement to the needs and keep the process flexible to changing circumstances.
There are numerous tools and approaches available on the internet to help you operationalise the above.

**Improve partnership success in projects in the BM4R framework**
In our project W2E we have combined the setting up of the business model with an inclusive green governance model (we named it Boresha Maisha 4R, short BM4R). The latter is to be used for scaling up, for connecting with new market opportunities in African context, and for acquiring alternative funding possibilities.

The BM4R will intend to provide the catalytic first successes, thus with the aim of implementing an inclusive governed green business that will -through new bankable PPPs- improve on water resources needed for community growth and climate resilience.

The urban areas in Kisumu where BM4R is our initial market area and will aim at- as part of the upscaling strategy- demoing a transformative approach with a view towards replication of its principles and operations, in Winam gulf, Lake Victoria basin countries and wider East Africa. The initiative involves a dedicated “guild” of coalition partners from governments, investors, academics, corporate and community stakeholders committed to the aim of scaling up demo-ed restorative African-proof entrepreneurship that deliver quality on economic, environmental and social returns.

To strengthen and accelerate these ambitious targets while bringing different parties together (SDG 17 n sustainable partnerships) we need to refocus and intensify their efforts on certain factors and realisations.
Some critical factors for achieving successful partnerships**
1. Role of personal relationships. In the W2E project, the personal networks of the people involved seemed very important in orienting the consortium on its joint mission. Informal connections provided flexibility in finding initial direction on where the consortium needs to be heading. They also helped in reaching out to new partners, in order to expand.
2. Scope of the partnership objective. The W2E project showed that focused and clear objectives seem more suitable in a PPP setting. Objectives with a wider scope tend to develop into multistakeholder dialogues, rather than PPP configurations.
3. Priorities on fact-driven implementation. Entrepreneurs should be able to determine whether they are ready to implement their idea or whether some research is still needed to better understand their problem context and product impact. If a solution is implemented in a context that still contains some fundamental unknowns, then the project faces a high risk of failure.

**Partnership formation**
To increase value of partnerships one can:
1. Balance short and long-term priorities. Address the tension between the desire for quick wins from the business end and the desire for addressing larger, wicked water problems from the research end. We considered tension to be constructive, as it requires the knowledge partner to become very practical about their contribution and it requires the entrepreneur to base his decisions on best facts rather than believes and “gut feelings”.
2. Organize for practical hands-on results. Plan and execute for practical fieldwork during a project. This contributes to the consortium’s motivation, both as a milestone to work towards and as tangible feedback on the results and impact of the collaboration.
3. Balance partnerships and cultural differences. The partnerships need to take the effects of cultural differences into consideration (we used CultureCompass form the Hofstede group in the App stores to highlight the general particularities of Indian, Dutch and Kenyan communities). Some partners may refrain from emphasizing a sustained relation with a public or private sector player, because this is uncommon or even unthinkable. Project coordinators need to balance making practical project progress with safeguarding the public interest on the other while considering local settings and customs.

**Successful knowledge applications for improved business**
We learned that it is important to have in your business set up:
1. High-level support within the different knowledge institutes and experts involved (in W2E case: Indian, Kenyan and Dutch) and additional high-level support by local government officials. We believe it as our duty to inform the local governmental bodies.
2. Orchestrators, with high motivation and personal drive, who are committed to obtaining good quality result and long term impacts by creating a level playing field in Kenyan setting.
3. Local presence in the form of a branch office or local representation.
4. The use of foreign accessible networks with local knowledge and valuable contacts, such as a network of foreign alumni.
5. The availability of local financial resources (subsidies or grants) for setting up a multiyear R&D involvement.