HLPF side-event: How to build forward better with SMEs as gamechangers
Insights from the side-event and the panel discussion
On July 12th, 2022, SEED, together with Go4SDGs, UN Environment Programme, UN Global Compact and the Government of Germany, organised an official side event to the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.
The event brought together a panel of key SME stakeholders, including representatives from UN Global Compact, the Government of South Africa, and Tetra Pak Mexico, as well as four entrepreneurs, gamechangers in driving green economic growth and delivering local climate solutions.
With almost 200 participants, the event looked ahead at the pathways to build forward better, by using the potential of eco-inclusive SMEs in the transition toward sustainability and their contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals. Moreover, at the event SEED launched its 20 Year Impact Flagship Report "Impact Insights: The Power of Eco-Inclusive Enterprises and BDS Providers". Looking at the enterprise and BDS ecosystem, the report analyses the contribution and impact of ecosystem actors to the SDGs through impactful and transformative change.
To open the event, SEED was honoured to welcome Ligia Noronha, UN Assistant Secretary-General & Head of the UNEP New York Office, and Stephan Contius, the Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda and Head of the UN Division Developing Countries and Emerging Economies of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection. In her keynote address, Ligia Noronha emphasised that SMEs were the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and remain key for the post-COVID recovery. She highlighted five key elements to consider for the transition: we see today a growing market for sustainable goods; though there needs to be more collaboration along the value chain; we must strengthen the capacity for circularity; we must scale up the activities in high-impact sectors; and green financing must become more inclusive globally, specifically addressing the needs and potential of SMEs.
Building on these remarks in his keynote address, Stephan Contius highlighted the need to scale up the many existing and excellent initiatives. Specifically, the great work and the innovative solutions by eco-inclusive SMEs that work towards the Sustainable Development Goals and lead the way for the green transition. The key task is to make sure that these best practices are known around the world so that working solutions can be replicated and brought to scale (read more about the success factors for Scale-up and Replication in SEED’s recent case study snapshot).
Together, the panel discussed practical cases and success stories of four eco-inclusive SMEs that SEED has worked with and that are gamechangers and local drivers of the transition toward sustainability.
The panel discussion kicked-off with presentations by the four entrepreneurs: Harry Malichi of Wuchi Wami (Zambia), Hana Purnawarman of Sampangan (Indonesia), Sappawat Kantamara of Find Folk (Thailand) and Santiago Caceres of Proplanet (Colombia) introduced their enterprises and their practical solutions to local climate challenges. Working in the production of sustainable honey, Wuchi Wami contributes to preserving local forests, while empowering youth and women by providing sustainable and green jobs. Tackling the issue of waste, Sampangan transforms unprocessed and unsorted waste materials into useable outputs for agriculture, construction and sanitation, thereby preventing waste from ending up in the environment and simultaneously empowering local farmers. Find Folk then presented its solution to the issue of over-tourism in Thailand. Find Folk connects local communities directly with the travellers and encourages low-carbon alternatives by indicating the saved carbon emissions with each booking, thereby promoting sustainable tourism while also providing economic opportunities to local communities. Finally, Proplanet introduced its local solution to low recycling rates in Colombia. By upcycling waste into new products, Proplanet promotes the circular economy model to reintroduce materials back into the economy.
Following the entrepreneurs’ introductions, Sergio Escalera of Tetra Pak Mexico, Garth Barnes of the South African Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, and Sue Allchurch of the UN Global Compact delivered additional inputs. First, Sergio Escalera introduced Tetra Pak’s activities to promote sustainability across the global value chain, stressing the role of local activities such as those of eco-inclusive enterprises like Proplanet. Next, Garth Barnes presented a South African perspective and the government’s activities to improve ecosystem services by collaborating with and enabling over 500 SMEs. Finally, Sue Allchurch spoke of the work of the UN Global Compact, encouraging businesses – small and large – to operate economically, socially and environmentally responsible. To do this, she highlighted the need to work locally and then scale these successful initiatives to the global level.
Arab Hoballah, SEED’s Executive Director, concluded the event after the panel discussion on a final note, inviting everyone to keep working together for a collective impact and to reach the scale that we need.
We invite you to watch the full recording of the event here.