The Paradox at the Base of the Pyramid: Environmental Sustainability and Market-Based Poverty Alleviation

International Journal of Technology Management, Vol. 60, Nos. 1/2, pp. 44-59, 2012

27 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2013

See all articles by Denis G. Arnold

Denis G. Arnold

University of North Carolina, Charlotte

Laura Williams

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Charlotte

Date Written: December 9, 2012

Abstract

Base of the pyramid (BoP) business strategies focus on the delivery of goods and services to the world's poor. Proponents argue that previously unrecognised opportunities for profit are available to companies that target this underserved population. This strategy is commonly presented as an example of social responsibility, or social sustainability, since it targets consumers that have not traditionally had access to consumer goods and services. However, business activities can have a disproportionately harmful impact on the natural environments in which the BoP live and work. We argue that businesses engaged in BoP activities with the ostensible goal of benefitting the BoP may paradoxically harm the BoP by degrading the natural environments on which they are dependent. We provide a conceptual framework for understanding the environmental impacts that firm products, services, and operations can have on the BoP, and we provide a pragmatic solution aimed at resolving this apparent paradox.

Keywords: base of the pyramid, BoP, bottom of the pyramid, environmental sustainability, ecological sustainability, corporate social responsibility, international business, management ethics, poverty

Suggested Citation

Arnold, Denis G. and Williams, Laura, The Paradox at the Base of the Pyramid: Environmental Sustainability and Market-Based Poverty Alleviation (December 9, 2012). International Journal of Technology Management, Vol. 60, Nos. 1/2, pp. 44-59, 2012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2214296

Denis G. Arnold (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina, Charlotte ( email )

9201 University City Boulevard
Charlotte, NC 28223-0001
United States

Laura Williams

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Charlotte

9201 University City Boulevard
Charlotte, NC 28223
United States

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