While calls to 'build back better' from COVID-19 are now reverberating across parliamentary halls and board rooms the world over, for many decision makers the question is: how? Involving and investing in small enterprises is part of the answer.
Far from the COVID-19 global headlines, a movement is underway in Peru. An alliance of local green enterprises is leading the charge to Buy Local - and it is proving key for supporting small businesses through and beyond the pandemic. With close to 90% of employment in the country in small businesses, the role that these enterprises can play in Peru’s green transition is key. By mobilising around the online platform, Economia Verde, hundreds of small enterprises can connect, campaign and drive demand for local green products and services. Together, they are starting to build back better.
Small and informal enterprises are the backbone of every economy. In Europe, they account for around two-thirds of economic activity, while in other regions of the world, they can account for up to 90% of all businesses. But small enterprises have been decimated by COVID-19. Many operate in sectors that have been disrupted by the pandemic, such as retail, food, services and hospitality, and few small businesses have been able to weather the lockdown measures. The severity of the crisis has prompted governments, businesses and citizens to question and to rethink their development pathways.
For the last decade, there has been both a recognition and clear shift globally towards greener economic models. Scores of countries have adopted green plans and strategies, investing in greening economic sectors and growing green industries. However, in some cases the quest for low carbon growth has ended up marginalising small businesses and poorer groups. The violent strikes in France led by the 'gilet jaunes’ or the street protests in Ecuador over fossil fuel subsidy reform are just two such examples of people feeling left behind by green policies
By contrast, an inclusive green economy, promoted in Peru and elsewhere, sets out to ensure that people – particularly the poorest, women, marginalised communities and small and informal enterprises – benefit from green policymaking and investments. This vision is now being echoed by those calling for a green and just recovery from the pandemic. It can be seen in demands to centralise human rights in stimulus packages, to put nature at the centre of recovery and perhaps, most critically, to ensure thatcitizens have a voice in economic recovery.
For the Green Economy Coalition , a global network of over 50 civil society
organisations, inclusive green economic development means more than a one-off policy consultation. Rather, it is a process that allows citizens and key constituencies to shape the goals and outcomes of a policy choice – because only then will it gain traction. As such, inclusive green economic policymaking is not a nice to have, it is the vehicle of green transitions.
The Peruvian enterprise network is one of seven civil society-led national and regional dialogue processes in Asia, Africa, Latin America that the Green Economy Coalition has been supporting. The multi-year dialogue process, which has fostered conversations between private and public policy actors in different sectors and industries, has led to inclusive policy outcomes. Small and informal enterprises, women, local communities, marginalised populations have been able to get a stake and have their say in green policy processes, and influence policy outcomes.
A truly inclusive green economy has people at the core . It recognises and respects the values, perspectives and rights of stakeholders. Participatory procedures can drive policies, projects and investments. And the outcomes, trade-offs, costs and benefits of green economy interventions should be distributed equitably and with transparency.
What business can do
Business leaders looking for practical ways to engage with local communities and national governments should support decentralised, multi-actor and participatory policy design and delivery processes. These embed inclusivity in governance systems and contribute to a societal transition to sustainability. Investment in green economy transitions without inclusion is both unjust and risky. In contrast, investment in green economy transitions with inclusion builds the essential foundations for sustainable, enduring and fair green economic reforms.
As economic vulnerabilities become more apparent – never more so than during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – the concept of an inclusive green economy has re-emerged into the mainstream of social and economic policy. Countries and regions worldwide are recognising that a green and just recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic can boost economies, create (much-needed) jobs and cut emissions. But they need to include local communities, citizens and enterprises whose lives and livelihoods have been inextricably transformed.
The Economia Verde platform and green enterprises alliance in Peru has raised the ambition for a green recovery in Peru. Inclusive policy processes like this can bring together business, government and citizen perspectives to craft not only a greener, but a fairer future for all.
This article is part of Business Fights Poverty NYC Online 2020, a one-week, online conference (21 to 25 September) that builds on our recent online conference Business Fights Poverty Online 2020 (13 to 17 July) to drive forward connection, conversations and collaboration around how we rebuild better - how together we create an equitable and resilient world. The week consists of inspiring and engaging content, live events, peer networking and community-led learning. The week also builds on our Business and COVID-19 Response with Harvard Kennedy School Corporate Responsibility Initiative, and supported by DFID and a number of our corporate partners.
Each day, we will focus on a specific theme: Imagining the Future We Want (Monday); Creating an Equitable World (Tuesday); Helping People Survive and Thrive (Wednesday); Building Resilient Livelihoods (Thursday); Shaping System-Level Partnerships (Friday).
If you were unable to join these sessions you can access all of the recordings and summaries with a Digital Pass. You can also watch the opening sessions and musical performances via the links on the event page.