Next month, BSR’s HERproject team will organize a cross-sector gathering of experts to discuss financial inclusion in the supply chain. The first-ever Global HERfinance Convening, taking place March 10-11 in Hong Kong, will offer action-oriented discussions and interactive workshops targeted at stakeholders that may not typically attend financial-inclusion events.
After a two-year period, we have completed the pilot of our flagship HERfinance program in India, made possible with seed funding from The Walt Disney Company. The pilot confirmed that there is a significant gap in many financial-inclusion discussions: While many financial institutions and community interventions have focused on expanding access to credit, millions of low-income, salaried workers in factories and on farms across the developing world—most of whom are women—do not have a basic savings account. Our research, which will be launched on March 10 at the Convening, demonstrates that very few workers want credit, but they often rely on it for expenditures. We found that most supply chain workers would be better served by improved saving and budgeting habits and increased access to tailored financial tools and resources.
Through HERfinance, we hope to fill this gap for low-income salaried workers. Our research has demonstrated that HERfinance trainings have increased savings rates and the number of workers using formal financial services (rather than informal services). The trainings have given women more confidence to manage their own wages and contribute to household spending decisions. The program has also improved the working environment in participating factories: Program participants were more than four times more likely than non-participants to say they felt they could meet their families’ needs in the next two years, a change that can have a highly positive impact on workers’ satisfaction with their employers.
Our vision for the Convening is to engage new stakeholders on financial education and inclusion, and on how approaches like HERfinance can help empower workers, build an inclusive economy, and drive business benefits. Our attendees will include financial institutions thinking about how to make the economics of financial inclusion work, community-based nonprofit organizations implementing programs day-to-day, and global companies with supply chains that directly and indirectly employ tens of millions of low-income people.
We will discuss how the workplace can become an intervention point to responsibly onboard low-income people into the formal financial system. We will hear directly from employers on how workplace-based programs have benefited their businesses, and how financial service providers and nonprofits are using innovative product design and digital payments to potentially reach huge numbers of low-income people, which traditional products and payment streams cannot.
I encourage you to join the HERproject team and our partners in Hong Kong. If you can’t be there, you can follow our conversations on Twitter by following @BSRherproject and using the hashtag #herproject.