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Sustainability Impact and Challenges at the Base of the Pyramid (BoP)

22 December 2012

The research workshop "Sustainability and Impact Challenges at the Base of the Pyramid" took place on 16th November 2012 in Paris. This conference was jointly organized by Ecole Polytechnique, ESSEC Business School and HEC Paris (Social Business / Enterprise and Poverty Chair). It is the second edition of a workshop aimed to discuss and share ideas, research results and practical experiences about business approach to poverty alleviation and sustainable development in the "base of the pyramid". About 150 academics and professionals interested in Base of the Pyramid/ Social Business, CSR, and emerging countries participated in the workshop.

Sustainability Impact and Challenges at the Base of the Pyramid - HEC Paris 2012

In 1998, C. K. Prahalad released "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid" (BoP). Ever since, academics and business have developed this approach. Protocols were created, academic proposals were criticized, and numerous projects were launched, few reaching full success. However, for many reasons, BoP ventures seem to be relevant field for companies’ experiments and learning for poverty alleviation and towards a sustainable economy.

The first edition of this research workshop, on February 8th 2010 (Video on iTunesU) was the opportunity to make a review and question the sustainability of BoP practices. Stuart Hart who made the keynote presentation emphasized the need for companies to initiate disruptive innovations and called for the inclusion of environmental concerns.

This second workshop focused on companies internal perspectives and entrepreneurial challenges of their BoP practices (linking with local intermediaries, initiating a strategic renewal, developing new skills and choosing the right business models) and companies experiments to contribute to broader societal change through BoP practices (cross-sector partnerships, mature markets renewal through reverse innovation, the development of social value for BoP markets).

The keynote presentation was delivered by Prof. Erik Simanis from Cornell University, co-author of the BoP ProtocolTM promoting radical innovation and now calling for companies to focus on their core competencies and search for profit. Prof Simanis’ presentation “ Back to Business Fundamentals: Making “Bottom of the Pyramid” Relevant to Core Business” was published in Field Actions Science Reports, Special Issue 4 | 2012.

It was followed by presentations of worldwide academics and contributions of each of the inviting institutions including Bénédicte Faivre-Tavignot, Executive Director of the HEC Paris Social Business / Enterprise and Poverty Chair (Leveraging BoP Markets for Strategic renewal: a longitudinal study of Danone) Practitioners from multinationals with experience in BoP initiatives provided their insights for all participants.

Workshop Presentation and Program


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