Inclusive business Practices

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The recent months saw an impressive number of bills related to economy being passed by the Parliament, showing a renascent interest from the government in harnessing the business potential of the country.

Last among them, the Industrial Enterprise Act has been welcomed by both the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry and by the Confederation of Nepalese Industries, the two major associations of entrepreneurs and business leaders.

The Government very recently also tabled a long due Cooperative Bill that is aimed at better regulating a sector that had gone astray since long with many cases of mismanagement and misappropriation of resources.

After all, we should not forget the roots of the cooperative movement are social when Robert Owen and William Kin, the latter founding editor of the magazine The Co-operator whose first edition was published in UK on 1st May 1828, felt the need to create financial institutions run by the members and able to fill the gaps faced by workers in the midst of the industrial revolution.

Therefore cooperatives should be by default economic entities strongly led by a social mission, something not too different, at least in substance, from the more recent phenomena of social entrepreneurship and social business.

Yet unfortunately most of the co-operatives in Nepal are not open to business for vulnerable and disadvantaged youths.

I am wondering if the business leaders of the country will be able to seize the momentum offered by the new legislative framework and truly leverage it not only for their own good but also for expanding the still too limited and often exclusionary economic opportunities available.

There are still too many social and economic groups who have not an equitable access to economic resources of the country and business leaders, while rightly concerned about the economic climate in the country should do much more to make their own companies more open and inclusive.

It might be not a coincidence that I never heard nor met any business leaders representing vulnerable groups like dalits or persons living with disabilities, showing the still a too vast gap prevails in terms of access to economic opportunities.

On the 12th of October, the ILO Global Business and Disability Network will host in Genève its global summit where many multinationals will sign the Business Charter on Disability that offers a framework for inclusive business practices specifically targeting persons with disabilities.

Certainly here we are talking about big multinationals that have the resources, means and skills to reasonably accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities but interesting a neighboring country like Bangladesh is moving ahead on its quest to make its industries more inclusive and accessible.

Last February the ILO and the Bangladesh Employers’ Federation convened a workshop with the idea of replicating locally the creation of a network promoting inclusive practices.


Moreover the Ministry of Education in Bangladesh started, as part of the Bangladesh Disability Welfare Act (2011) and the National Skills Development Policy (2011), enforcing a 5 % quota for persons living with disabilities accessing technical and vocational institutions throughout the country.

There is no doubt that business sector in Bangladesh is much bigger than ours but it is also true that this country in the last years experienced quite a bit of political instability due to continuing clashes between the two leading parties. At the same time the culture of “bandha” in Nepal has gradually subsidized if you compare with five or six years ago.

Therefore there are not really any excuses for not promoting policies or practices that can gradually make the national economy more open for vulnerable groups.

After all many industries are led by persons who have been studying overseas, who firsthand know about more inclusive practices used in countries like Australia and United States.

While we should all push for a new disability Act, the younger generations who are taking over many of the biggest business houses in the country, mostly all of them continuously exposed to global world and best practices, should do some introspection and think if they can also play a role in creating a more inclusive economy where everybody, regardless of their vulnerabilities, can have a shot.

After all organizations like Rotary, Lions and Round Table, whose members are mostly in key positions within the private sector, could play an important role to start a national conversation and nudge away some outdated mindsets according to which a dalit or a person with disability is not suitable to work.

They should not do this as part of their charity or corporate social responsibility driven missions but rather because, excluding big portions of the population from the national economy will, in the long run, hit their bottom lines.

Interestingly the country saw in the recent decade an upsurge in the number of cottage, small and medium enterprises. There are even special funds to incentivize more women to become entrepreneurs.  Unfortunately there has not been any national campaign to promote such actions and often the resources available are either unspent or misused.

I am wondering how many youths from disadvantaged or vulnerable groups have tried to access to Youth and Small Entrepreneur Self Employment Fund. Probably my guess is that too few, if any, benefited from it.

The country will be more economically open vibrant and inclusive only if we work at multiple levels, for example, with more provisions and policies enacted by the State, with the starting of new internship and traineeship opportunities offered by the major business houses and by expanding the entrepreneurship space for those youths till now unfairly excluded.  Small but incremental steps at the beginning will be followed and scaled up to make Nepal’s economy more vibrant because more diverse.

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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