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Business and Sustainable Livelihoods

Archived Content


Innovative approaches by networks of entrepreneurs, companies, NGOs, governments and development agencies to create sustainable livelihoods in developing countries. Funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, IFC and the Maclean Foundation.

This research project explored innovative approaches that the private sector (from developing country entrepreneurs to international companies) and their partners are taking to address development challenges in ways that are good for the poor and the environment as well as being good for business. A collection of case studies, resources, and publications have been attached to this page.


"Unleashing Entrepreneurship," the recent report of the UN Commission on the Private Sector and Development, identified the crucial importance of unleashing local entrepreneurship and mobilizing existing private sector financial and intellectual resources to address the urgent challenges of ending poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Neither aid nor macroeconomic reforms on their own are enough Increasing numbers of entrepreneurs, large businesses, non-governmental organizations, development agencies and governments are recognizing that new collaborative approaches are necessary to grow dynamic and sustainable enterprises and economies that can improve livelihoods, put people to work and raise standards of living.

This research is made possible through the generous support of the McLean Foundation with additional financial support provided by the Government of Canada through the Canadian International Development Agency.

Project Team

Research and collaborative work on Sustainable Local Enterprise Networks is being led by the Business and Sustainability Program at the Schulich School of Business, York University, including contributions from the following team members:

  • David Wheeler, Director and Erivan K Haub Professor in Business and Sustainability, Schulich School of Business, York University
    David started his career in the water industry where he specialized in water pollution control and was a frequent consultant to United Nations agencies. He supervised development projects in 12 countries in Africa and Latin America and co-developed the award-winning DelAgua drinking water test kit, which is now used in more than 50 developing countries worldwide.
  • Kevin McKague
    Kevin is a Senior Research Fellow with IRIS focusing on innovative business approaches to creating sustainable livelihoods. He has a Bachelors of Arts & Science from McMaster University with a specialization in international development and an MBA from York University with a specialization in Business and Sustainability and Business Ethics. Kevin is co-author of The Role of Business in Development and has authored the Compendium of Codes of Conduct and Instruments of Corporate Responsibility with the Voluntary Codes Research Group at York University.
  • Marc-André Roy
    Marc-André is a graduate of the MBA program at the Schulich School of Business with a specialization in International Business and Business and Sustainability. Marc-André focused much of his studies and research on international private sector development, microfinance and microenterprise, particularly in West Africa. Marc-André is also the co-founder of Net Impact, the business and sustainability student organization at York University.
  • Jane Thomson
    Jane is a graduate of the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. Her area of concentration is “The Role of Business in Sustainable Livelihoods.” Jane has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Manitoba and worked in the consulting industry for five years in Canada, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya before returning to University.
  • Rachel Davies
    Rachel is an MBA graduate from the Schulich School of Business where she specialized in Business and Sustainability and Finance. Rachel received an Honours Bachelor of Science from Queen’s University where she specialized in Biochemistry. Prior to starting her MBA, Rachel worked as a Business Analyst in the non-profit sector. In addition to her professional experience, Rachel has volunteered with a number of health care organizations and has worked and traveled in Japan and South East Asia.
  • Bryan Rappaport
    Bryan is an MBA graduate from the Schulich School of Business where he specialized in Business and Sustainability and Economics. He received an Honours Bachelor of Commerce from McMaster University with a focus in International Business and Economic Development. Before starting his MBA, Bryan worked in the non-profit sector where he helped create and evaluate income generation programs in developing countries.
  • Jacqueline Medalye
    Jacqueline is a Toronto-based student, researcher, and writer. Jacqueline’s research interests include international political economy, the power structures of multinational-host government relations in developing nations, and Third world sustainable development. Jacqueline has a Bachelor of Business Administration from York University with a focus in Business and Sustainability. Jacqueline is currently working on research projects in the area of business and sustainability.


The Business and Sustainable Livelihoods group is involved in the following activities:

  • Research and Analysis
    In-depth explorations of how innovative private sector organizations (large and small, local and international) and Sustainable Local Enterprise Networks are successfully combining profitable business models with the creation of sustainable livelihoods – directly alleviating poverty, restoring the environment and maintaining profitability.
  • Case Studies
    Developing case studies with a particular focus on self-reliant, locally based entrepreneurs and businesses as well as ‘Base of the Pyramid’ examples typically involving larger international companies.
  • Shared Learning
    Delivering presentations, publishing articles and convening meetings bringing representatives of business, government, civil society organizations, and academia together to share the latest developments and insights on the role of business and entrepreneurship in development.
  • Sector to Sector Dialogues and Linking-up Business Networks
    Engaging Canadian businesses, NGOs and government agencies to explore opportunities for the sustainable enterprise and development in developing countries.
  • University Linkages for Sustainable Local Enterprise Education
    Collaborative development of courses in “entrepreneurship for sustainable local enterprise” in Southern countries at the graduate and undergraduate level as well as collaboratively delivering the Sustainable Enterprise Academy executive education seminar with partner universities in developing countries.
  • Catalyzing New Ventures
    Supporting networks of collaborators to launch new business ventures, projects and partnerships on the ground that focus on sustainable livelihoods in developing countries.
  • MBA Student Consulting to Sustainable Local Enterprise Networks
    Exploring the development of independent studies, field internships and other opportunities for teams of MBA students (and graduate students from other faculties) to provide responsive consulting and research services to Sustainable Local Enterprise Networks in developing countries (i.e. to deliver market research, feasibility studies, strategic analysis, marketing plans, etc.).