Max Havelaar Lecture 2007

Max Havelaar Lecture 2007

Poverty and Business

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the potential contribution of corporations to a large number of societal issues has received increasing attention and controversy. This also applies to arguably the biggest global challenge of the moment: alleviating poverty. Until recently, the issue of poverty was largely ignored in management theory and practice. Key note speeches by Geoffrey Sachs, Alexander Rinnooy Kan and Antony Burgmans. Management studies at the moment lack the firm specific strategic frameworks, the conceptual tools, as well as the firm specific data to address the poverty issue in all its dimensions. This rather ambiguous state of affairs, however, has not prevented the issue from appearing prominently on the agenda of corporate decision makers. Neither did it prevent business gurus from devising formulas in which poverty is considered an opportunity rather than a threat. Consequently, the mood towards the involvement of firms in general and multinationals in specific in poverty alleviation is changing. Will this mood-change prove sustainable or is it merely a new management gimmick? What is the influence of other issues like global warming?