The Environmental (Un)sustainability of the Base-of-the-Pyramid (BOP) Philosophy: A Governance Perspective
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The Base- or Bottom-of-the-Pyramid (BOP) philosophy has rapidly gained currency in business, following seminal articles and books in the popular management literature (Prahalad and Hammond, 2002; Hart and Christensen, 2002; Prahalad, 2005; Hart, 2005). The thrust of the BOP philosophy is to achieve economic and social development to four billion persons with very low incomes through a practical business model that proposes decentralized, often small-scale production and consumption activities that are tailored to the needs of the poor. The BOP philosophy has appealed to many in the business (education) world (World Business Council for Sustainable Development, 2007; Aspen Institute, 2007; Economist, 2004). By contrast, the academic research community has clearly lagged behind. The rare publications in scholarly journals have focused on the economic and social dimensions of the BOP philosophy (Kandachar and Halme, 2007). While its viability and merits have been questioned (Karnani, 2007a, b; Landrum, 2007), the continued exploration of the socio-economic potential of the BOP business model, with a number of demonstrated „success stories‟ (Prahalad, 2005; Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise, 2007), is definitely worthwhile – especially against the backdrop of the lack of success of alternative models (Sachs, 2005; Stiglitz, 2006).
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