IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Innovative business approaches for the reduction of extreme poverty and marginality?


  • Baumuller, Heike
  • Husmann, Christine Ladenburger
  • von Braun, Joachim


Extreme poverty is an immense political and market failure, wasting the potential of hundreds of millions of people. Investing in the creation of markets that include the extreme poor and marginalized should thus not only be considered as a charitable activity, but promises high returns on investments – in financial and humanitarian terms. However, while the potential of innovative business approaches to target the poor that live close to the poverty line is increasingly being recognised, the question remains how far these approaches can push the margin to also include those that are extremely poor. And how can those that are marginalized from development opportunities be brought into and benefit from market-based systems to improve the quality of their lives? The impressive rise of business approaches to combating poverty stems from a long history of debates on the role of businesses in society. From an initial focus on social objectives as an external add-on, leading business thinkers have increasingly been stressing the benefits for companies of integrating social considerations into their core business strategies, for instance by targeting lowincome consumers (or ‘bottom of the pyramid’ markets) or strengthening supply and distribution chains through the involvement of local communities as part of inclusive business strategies. Others – most notably Muhammed Yunus along with other social entrepreneurs – are taking this argument one step further, advocating the use of business strategies primarily to address social goals rather than for financial gains. Thus, in discussions on the role of business in society, profit maximisation as the primary objective of business operations is increasingly making way for business initiatives that are guided by social objectives. This trend is also being supported by growing interest among investors in financing enterprises that promote social or environmental objectives, either as their primary aim or in parallel with seeking to generate financial returns. How suitable these different approaches are to engage the poorest and marginalized depends in part on the extent to which they are able to involve the extreme poor themselves, their flexibility to direct business objectives towards the reduction of extreme poverty and marginality, and their ability to successfully operate with non-business public and civil society partners and in sectors of particular interest to the extreme poor. Further research and action is needed to identify outcome-focused indicators and measurement tools for social value creation, examine possible government measures to support business activities for the poorest, and consider complementarities between the different business approaches. While we recognise that it is unrealistic to expect businesses to be able to reach all of the extreme poor, we believe that the boundaries of innovative business operations can be pushed much further to include a far larger number of the poorest and marginalized.

Suggested Citation

  • Baumuller, Heike & Husmann, Christine Ladenburger & von Braun, Joachim, 2011. "Innovative business approaches for the reduction of extreme poverty and marginality?," Working Papers 147921, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:ubonwp:147921

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Esther Duflo, 2007. "The Economic Lives of the Poor," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 141-168, Winter.
    2. Sharir, Moshe & Lerner, Miri, 2006. "Gauging the success of social ventures initiated by individual social entrepreneurs," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 6-20, February.
    3. Gatzweiler, Franz W. & Baumuller, Heike & Husmann, Christine Ladenburger & von Braun, Joachim, 2011. "Marginality: Addressing the Root Causes of Extreme Poverty," Working Papers 146653, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    4. Certo, S. Trevis & Miller, Toyah, 2008. "Social entrepreneurship: Key issues and concepts," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 51(4), pages 267-271.
    5. Aneel Karnani, 2009. "The Bottom of the Pyramid Strategy for Reducing Poverty: A Failed Promise," Working Papers 80, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs.
    6. Uwafiokun Idemudia, 2010. "Rethinking the role of corporate social responsibility in the Nigerian oil conflict: The limits of CSR," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(7), pages 833-845.
    7. Mair, Johanna & Martí, Ignasi, 2006. "Social entrepreneurship research: A source of explanation, prediction, and delight," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 36-44, February.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Husmann, Christine & von Braun, Joachim & Badiane, Ousmane & Akinbamijo, Yemi & Abiodun, Fatunbi Oluwole & Virchow, Detlef, 2015. "Tapping Potentials of Innovation for Food Security and Sustainable Agricultural Growth: An Africa-Wide Perspective," Working Papers 228855, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    2. Mbaye, Linguere Mously & Zimmermann, Klaus F., 2016. "Natural Disasters and Human Mobility," International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, now publishers, vol. 10(1), pages 37-56, November.
    3. Iskandar, Deden Dinar & Gatzweiler, Franz, 2014. "An optimization model for technology adoption of marginalized smallholders: Theoretical support for matching technological and institutional innovations," Working Papers 182495, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    4. Baumuller, Heike, 2013. "Mobile Technology Trends and their Potential for Agricultural Development," Working Papers 160565, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    5. Schädler, Manuel & Gatzweiler, Franz W., 2013. "Institutional Environments for Enabling Agricultural Technology Innovations: The role of Land Rights in Ethiopia, Ghana, India and Bangladesh," Working Papers 159373, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    6. Siriwardane, Rapti & Winands, Sarah, 2013. "Between hope and hype: Traditional knowledge(s) held by marginal communities," Working Papers 151401, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    7. von Braun, Joachim & Gerber, Nicolas & Mirzabaev, Alisher & Nkonya, Ephraim M., 2013. "The Economics of Land Degradation," Working Papers 147910, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    8. Husmann, Christine, 0. "Transaction Costs on the Ethiopian Formal Seed Market and Innovations for Encouraging Private Sector Investments," Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, vol. 54.
    9. Kleemann, Linda, 2016. "Designing better donor strategies for inclusive business," PEGNet Policy Briefs 6/2016, PEGNet - Poverty Reduction, Equity and Growth Network, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ags:ubonwp:147921. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (AgEcon Search). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.