Do You Have to be Rich to be Green? Making Sustainable Products Available on the Kenyan BOP Market

Maxie Matthiessen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis investigates market realities at the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) market in Kenya for companies selling sustainable products. Sustainable products are an offshoot of the sustainable development paradigm. Sustainable development and the newly popularized BOP development paradigm share commonalities. Sustainable development gives room for business in the quest to spur development sustainably and the BOP theory holds that corporations can function as poverty alleviating entities. The BOP theory suggests that businesses can simultaneously do well and bring well-being to people living below 2 USD/day. Yet, whether business can operate profitably when introducing sustainable products has been left unexamined. This thesis analyses three businesses that sell sustainable products to the BOP customer segment in Kenya. Based on qualitative research methods, in particular the participant observation approach and interviews with key company personnel for triangulation and the purpose of drawing generalizations, this thesis illustrates that all businesses struggle to reach profitability. The implications of this study include the notion that the market fails when it comes to introducing sustainable products to the BOP in Kenya. If the international community wants to achieve the sustainable development of BOP markets, there is a need to investigate the potential for alternative financing means. These could take the form of public-private partnerships or corporate philanthropic engagement.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2014
Number of pages92