Presenter: Stephen Kreppel, The Nation Consultancy

An appropriately planned national export strategy can almost make a social enterprise out of a country. The right methodology can harness the profit motive to achieve social objectives as well as truly inclusive and sustainable prosperity. Profit motivates people as well as enterprise; it makes sustainable land-use more viable in the face of intensive land use and justifies community land ownership.
This case history represents work in progress, but it appears that Laos has found a way of using private enterprise and the profit motive not just to create prosperity but to do it inclusively, equitably - and to achieve social goals, including more sustainable land-use and community benefits. Just as the social enterprise pursues social goals as well as profit, so a social national brand can achieve social goals for the nation as well as accelerated prosperity.

Consumer beliefs power brands. The modern consumer demands ethical behaviour and social responsibility and boycotts brands that ignore that. The modern consumer prefers natural, authentic produce and flavours and trusts the small farmer or the artisanal producer to give them that. The modern consumer will pay more for a brand that lifts people out of poverty and makes sustainable production profitable. S/he wants to know the person at the start of the value chain.
The presentation will describe research that demonstrates this.

So, just as 21st-century technology puts employment from foreign direct manufacturing investment at risk from robots, it is also creating new international lifestyles and attitudes that offer a more sustainable alternative. It creates new means of promoting, communicating and selling that are effective and affordable. So small producers and developing countries can not only offer the new ethical consumer exactly the products that they are looking for - they can communicate with each other.
But it’s not enough to build the social brand, with guaranteed ethical standards. An absolutely reliable Total Value Chain is needed to deliver the product standards the consumer demands. A special structure is needed, to control quality standards and marketing, and it can become self-financing.
In Laos, working for the UNDP and the government, The Nation Consultancy prepared mock advertisements covering all the above points and more. UNDP used them for consumer research carried out in December last year by independent market research specialists.
It was that research which validated all the above hypotheses. It concluded that consumers will indeed willingly pay substantially more for the following quadruple proposition: a better quality traditional product combined with ethical /sustainable standards, Lao national culture and guarantees of better livelihoods for the producers. No one element on its own can do this; it’s the combination that gives the brand almost unprecedented power.
Conclusion is that better land use can be made more profitable, the Lao villagers wanting to resist pressure from foreign investors to buy up land, destroy forests, and create intensively farmed but unsustainable products can be resisted by the demonstration profitable markets can be found for low intensity, traditional and natural production.


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