Guest Post: Dr. Nancy Landrum on “Advancing the BoP Debate”
Dr. Nancy E. Landrum is Associate Professor of strategic management at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.? Her teaching, research, and consulting expertise are in strategic management, corporate social responsibility, and sustainability.? Dr. Landrum received her Ph.D. from New Mexico State University.? She has authored or co-authored several journal publications and has made numerous professional presentations.
By Dr. Nancy E. LandrumI would like to thank NextBillion and Robert Katz for the invitation to contribute this guest post.? Let me begin by offering some comments on Robert’s review of Advancing the ?Base of the Pyramid? Debate.? I am glad the literature review and analysis were of interest and I hope they add to the continuing development of BOP strategies.? I do acknowledge that my paper did not cite the WRI/IFC report since my paper was written before the report was released.? Typically there is a lengthy delay in publishing academic research, which frequently results in the latest information being unavailable at the time of publication although online academic publications now allow for quicker and wider dissemination of timely material.
I wrote the BOP debate article because, within the academic community, Dr. Prahalad’s book is the single most cited source in reference to the BOP.? The popularity of Prahalad’s book is acknowledged by best seller lists and frequent citations in the media.? I became concerned that corporations took notice only of the profit maximization message and gave less priority to their environmental and human impact.? Those with a keen interest in the BOP are aware of additional research, perspectives, and case studies extending beyond Prahalad’s book.? But casual readers may only become familiar with this single publication on the BOP, perhaps because it was a class assignment or perhaps because it was on the best seller lists of business books, and I wanted to reach this audience and offer another perspective.? I agree with Robert Katz that Prahalad’s research has advanced since his book came out and I have high regard for Prahalad’s work and the impact he has made with this single publication.? In fact, I am enormously grateful to the work of Prahalad and Hart for envisioning such a humanitarian approach to globalization.?? ?
I view BOP strategies as an evolving paradigm, as demonstrated by the continued development of Prahalad and Hart’s original work and the numerous researchers and companies engaging in this conversation.? As BOP work evolves, I see that current works create a more balanced approach toward financial, social, and environmental concerns. ?
As this paradigm evolves, so, too, will the topics of debate.? Debate and critique cause us to take closer examination and to challenge our beliefs, assumptions, and practices in order to scrutinize what doesn?t work and to improve upon it.? This will result in improved BOP approaches.? As the paradigm and debate evolve, we are still learning about the BOP arena and I am appreciative for the pioneering work being done at such places as WDI, Center for Sustainable Development, Vanderbilt, UNC, WBCSD, WRI, and others, as well as the many case studies allowing us to more specifically target what a successful BOP strategy entails.? In addition, the numerous online news sources, blogs, and web resources, such as NextBillion, are tremendous resources that keep everyone current in news and events within the BOP space and provide us with more timely and current information.? We are fortunate to have this accumulating base of knowledge to improve our work.
One question that continues to surface is whether or not BOP strategies can alleviate poverty.? As Prahalad stated, ?it’s too soon to tell.? But the potential for BOP strategies to improve the lives of billions of people is, in my opinion, quite realistic and this is enormously encouraging and rewarding; any improvement made is a step in the right direction. ?
My own research, teaching, and consulting have always been focused on the areas of corporate social responsibility, sustainability, and strategy, thus base of the pyramid strategies are of great interest to me since they encompass all my areas of interest.? I am passionate in my belief that corporations must behave ethically and consider their social and environmental impact, although they can often be oblivious to these outcomes.? The message I hope to convey in my last paper and in my current paper under development is that social and environmental impact are an integral part of considering outcomes of BOP strategies and should not be relegated to financial gain as the only outcome of importance. ?
BOP strategies have come a long way in a relatively short period.? Prahalad’s preface tells the story of several rejections of his and Hart’s article and their ideas before finally being published in 2002.? In just 5 years, we now have centers, conferences, researchers, websites, and more devoted entirely to the BOP.? It’s been an impressive 5 years and I look forward to the development of BOP strategies over the next 5 years.? I believe BOP strategies hold great potential to be one of the most important contributions made to current strategic management theory.? As we look toward the future of BOP strategies, it is exciting to see that the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of billions is now being considered a goal worthy of corporate pursuit.