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Joel Makower’s blog report on the WRI conference in San Francsico last week — Eradicating Poverty Through Profit — generated substantial discussion on Liberal Street Fighter.

Bottom of the Pyramid,’
a powerful meme promulgated by management profs CK Prahalad, Stuart Hart
and no doubt others, suggests that there’s a potentially powerful
economic engine waiting to be unleashed by bringing appropriately
scaled goods and services to the world’s poor — who though their
individual incomes (a few dollars a day) are shockingly low, represent
a substantial ‘addressable market’ since their numbers (some four
billion) are so schockingly high.

Makower: What’s equally
impressive is that the BOP movement — and I think
you can safely call it a movement — unlike the environmental or
corporate social responsibility movements, has flourished on a purely
voluntary basis. There are no regulatory mandates and few activist
campaigns that have pressured companies to join in. Largely as a
result, thereÅ´œs a sense of excitement, born of the rapid, organic
growth that has brought all of these souls together to share their
discoveries, experiences, and successes. Also noteworthy is how
companies operating in the BOP arena can find themselves not just in
new markets, but in new businesses.

Sample comment (this from Madman In The Marketplace): This
sounds like an interesting development, but but I can’t help but be
suspicious of some of those companies listed, especially the Oil &
Chemical companies. IÅ´œd be concerned that they are driven solely by the
need to expand their markets, and get cover for any damage they may be
doing to third world environments. However, it could also be a positive
trend.

(Who also notes, in an example of yet another marketplace innovation: There
was an interesting story on Marketplace as I was riding into work this
morning about a hedge fund aimed at Coke, seeking to pressure the
company to improve its practices by driving down its stock….Profits
from the fund would be distributed to the ‘victims of Coke’….)