Overcoming Barriers in the Implementation of Colombian Inclusive Business

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Angelica Fernandez Garzon


Engagement with the private sector to alleviate poverty has increased in prominence in the development agendas, with the current Sustainable Development Goals promoting ‘inclusive and sustainable economic growth and inclusive and sustainable industrialisation’. An instrument introduced to achieve these goals is inclusive business models: those involving the base of the pyramid (BoP) under a value-chain approach for mutual value creation, which means generating profit while creating social value. Most literature around the BoP has focused on business reaching low-income communities as consumers to expand multinational corporations’ (MNCs) markets, rather than as producers to generate livelihood opportunities. Therefore, this thesis aims to examine how organisations implementing inclusive business involving BoP as producers in Colombia seek to overcome barriers. This is achieved by conducting four case studies in different regions of Colombia, using the biographic narrative interpretative method to capture life stories and perceptions of the stakeholders involved in the implementation of inclusive business. The analysis of barriers is performed using the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) framework of ´primary constraints´; the foundations of Resource Dependence Theory (RDT) are used to analyse the strategies, and an exploration of underlying-reasons to overcome barriers is performed under thematic analysis. Key findings suggest that, beyond the barriers established by the UNDP framework, for the cases selected in the Colombian context, conflict barriers emerged related to the actions of armed groups, which also shaped mindset and cultural aspects of actors in those territories. In the light of RDT, adaptation and dependency were the most-used strategies to face barriers across-cases, while interaction emerges as a relevant strategy for the creation of social value. The main underlying-reasons to overcome barriers were the need to meet standards and the existence of corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies; while personal convictions linked to a responsive organisational culture were significant in the adoption of social approaches. One of the main contributions of this thesis is to show that not all of the barriers were overcome, suggesting the possibility of running profitable inclusive-businesses under constrained environments, which simultaneously provides the opportunity for social value creation. These findings gain further relevance in private-sector development, demonstrating the practicalities of using inclusive business to alleviate poverty, and for sustainable development, in consideration of their capacity to align aid and public-sector efforts. This result is particularly important in the Colombian context, to tackle some of the causes of conflict, and for the possibility of inclusive businesses to contribute in post-conflict scenarios to reduce the incidence of new conflicts.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date31 Dec 2019