In front of our eyes and in less than a year, we have seen the world being reshaped by the pandemic, with our systems creaking and cracking under its disrupting effects. At the same time, we have seen and continue to witness the resilience and innovations of humans and the human spirit in creating solutions and building back from the disruptions. Now is the time to overhaul and transform our systems.
This is certainly not going to be easy and will require a major shift in our production and consumption habits and, more importantly, in our mindsets. But do we have a choice? Current economic models have generated wealth, improved education and health outcomes, and created employment. But this has come at the cost of increasing inequality and environmental degradation, resulting in the climate crisis and the pandemic. Current models of growth and consumption are unsustainable. We need 1.75 planet Earths to provide resources and absorb waste at our current level of consumption, growing to two planets by 2030. While we need to generate wealth and improve incomes to address poverty, we must do it in a way that optimizes our use of resources and regenerates more than we consume, if we are to live comfortably within the planetary boundaries.
Thinking outside the box
As we navigate our lives and economies, we all have a unique opportunity to build green, circular and inclusive societies and economies that have people’s well-being at their core. This means accelerating the shift towards a world where people and the planet thrive together. It also means thinking out of the box, innovating at a considerable pace and igniting people’s entrepreneurial spark and spirit.
We have witnessed time and again the role entrepreneurs have played in building societies and economies. It is true that the pandemic has impacted entrepreneurs and their businesses. But entrepreneurs are, by nature, innovative and resilient. This is the time to re-channel their energies, entrepreneurism and innovations towards approaches that help turn environmental challenges into green growth and business opportunities. This way, incomes increase, livelihoods improve and the planet thrives. That’s why we believe promoting green entrepreneurship is now more important than ever before.
Benefits to communities and environment
Small and growing businesses have significant potential to create employment and contribute to economic growth, especially in local economies. Formal jobs are limited and growing populations are only exacerbating this challenge, with an estimated 20 million young people in Africa and Asia entering the labor force annually. At the same time, the green economy holds employment creation opportunities, if we can tap into the potential of green entrepreneurship. Trends such as the circular economy unlock new business models (and in turn employment), with workers at the bottom of the pyramid set to benefit, as examples such as waste and recycling demonstrate.
Small and growing entrepreneurs, working at the intersection of improving livelihoods and planet can respond to local needs, use local resources that benefit their communities and boost local economic development. In this way, they can create employment opportunities where they are most needed. We have been inspired by how green entrepreneurs find opportunities in challenges. For example, in India entrepreneurs are turning textile waste into high-value handcrafted products, while in Uganda they are responding to the environmental problem of single-use face masks by shifting to biodegradable masks.
Taking a leap
The time is ripe for governments, the private sector, donors and civil society organizations to harness the full potential of entrepreneurs towards a green and inclusive recovery by promoting green entrepreneurship. We see ample opportunities in nurturing entrepreneurial thinking and mindsets, improving access to green finance and markets and, most importantly, building a healthy ecosystem in which green entrepreneurs can do business and thrive. We urgently need partnerships and coalitions of the willing, as all this calls for unprecedented collaboration from all stakeholders at all levels. We are developing partnerships with like-minded mission-driven organizations who are ready to experiment and scale, and who aren’t afraid to take risks. The path to a green recovery and a brighter future lies in this willingness to innovate and take collaborative action.
This article was originally published by the IKEA Foundation