Private sector and markets

Maize drying in Ethiopia.

Our private sector and market development work aims to increase investment in sectors - such as smallholder agriculture - that enable economic growth to be more equally distributed and, where necessary, challenge power imbalances.

Our goal

Business has great potential for alleviating poverty. We want to maximise the contribution that business can make towards poverty reduction by challenging some practices and building a model for ethical trade.

This is another route for developing sustainable livelihoods for people living in poverty around the world.

Our work in this area has two main approaches: working with the private sector and developing fairer, more accessible markets.

Key strategies

Working with the private sector

  • Influencing the debate on the role of the private sector in poverty alleviation:

    through campaigning and programme delivery we aim to change beliefs, attitudes, policies and practices at both global and local levels on issues around poverty alleviation, among governments, International Financial Institutions, companies, civil society, and consumers.

  • Engagement with companies:

    we focus on changing policies, practices, and core business operations in three key global sectors to maximise poverty reduction: finance, agriculture, and climate change.

  • Changes to business practice:

    Oxfam is a co-founder of the Ethical Trading Initiative (a three-way alliance between NGOs, trade unions, and companies including Gap Inc, Next, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, and Asda), as well as of Fairtrade Foundation and Cafédirect.
    We work with businesses, encouraging them to deliver social and ethical value for poor people and their communities through their skills, competencies and innovation, and changes to business practice in ways that bring lasting and sustainable change.
    To support this work we have developed a range of Briefings for Business

  • Local private sector development:

    we facilitate the development of an equitable local private sector that employs or trades with remote rural and marginalised urban women and men living in poverty.

Markets and enterprise development

Inclusive, sustainable, and fair market development requires a responsive private sector and an effective national and local government.

  • Smallholders in supply chains:

    we aim to enable women and other marginalised smallholders to gain higher returns from products traded primarily with domestic companies. This includes facilitating innovative financial and agricultural services; working with domestic companies to adapt their business models to be inclusive and fair; and increasing the producer's voice in governance systems.
    See more on our work with Smallholder Supply Chains.

  • Feeding the cities:

    facilitating improved access and linkages for remote rural producers to urban markets and increasing the food security of urban consumers.

  • Producer organisation and enterprise development:

    this is achieved by creating enterprises or producer organisations that increase producers' power to enter markets, negotiate terms within markets, capture decent benefits from markets and influence the rules that govern markets.
    See more on our Enterprise Development Programme.

  • Facilitating urban local economic development:

     a new area with experimental work around urban enterprise development and developing key sectors for those living in poverty.

Advocacy priorities

Oxfam works with companies to help them understand how their operations affect the people in their value chains and the communities and countries in which they operate which in turn plays a role in determining the success of the business itself.

Oxfam's joint initiative with the investment industry, the Better Returns in a Better World project assesses the potential for investors to contribute to poverty alleviation through their investment activities.

We also ask companies to help reduce the impact of climate change by setting targets for emissions reductions and keeping to them.