Where many conventional start-up enterprises fail after only two years, more than three out of four SEED Winners have not, that is the major outcome of this flagship report“, states the foreword by Ibrahim Thiaw, UNEP Deputy Executive Director and UN Assistant-Secretary-General. This success is even more astounding when one considers that these are not any start-up enterprises but micro, small and medium-sized locally driven social and environmental businesses.
After one decade of supporting SMMEs at the grassroots, learning and growing, SEED, the global partnership founded by UNEP, UNDP and IUCN at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, takes stock. The 10 Year Flagship Report “Turning Ideas into Impact: Setting the Stage for the next 10 Years of Green and Inclusive Growth through Entrepreneurship” leaves theory behind and puts facts on the table. It analyses what the SEED Winners as well as the program itself have achieved over the past 10 years and how its learnings can be implemented in order to face the challenges for social and environmental enterprises even better and scale up their impact in the next decade. With the Post-2015 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) being drawn up; fostering green, inclusive business models is key for their implementation.
202 SEED Winners and Counting – the Frontrunners of Sustainable Development
Working at the grassroots SEED Winners have reached more than 12.3 million total beneficiaries at the bottom of the pyramid (BoP). They are included in the business models as suppliers, employees or distributors, and a particular focus is put on marginalised populations. For example, Provokame, Colombia, employs single mothers and female prisoners offering them on the job training and access to the labour market. This is just one of 10 inspiring short stories of the SEED Winners, which you can read in the report.
Getting to know these enterprises, working with them and seeing their potential, SEED counted on them to meet their expectations. However, to be able to truly analyse how well they have performed, SEED asked the 175 SEED Winners from 2005 to 2014 to participate in a detailed impact survey and follow-up interviews. What is striking about the outcomes is that 88% of the SEED Winners still operate and of these, 80% meet or exceed expectations – expectations not only referring to the economic revenue but also successfully creating social and environmental impacts for the community.
However, there is not one straight way to success, enterprises face challenges along the way and not all of them are able to overcome them. Start-ups that are in their early stages have the highest risk of business failure. Additional challenges are posed by regulatory barriers, the lack of appropriately trained people or access to finance. Forming multi-stakeholder partnerships is a way to brace for the difficulties encountered and a critical factor for success according to the outcomes of the survey. Partners bring diverse expertise and skills to the table and effectively strengthen any endeavour. Knowing from experience as SEED itself is a partnership, it not only asks of the applicants to the SEED Awards to have a range of different stakeholders to be eligible, but also continuously encourages partnerships throughout the support process.
SEED – An Initiative for Impact
Since its creation in 2002 and the first five winners of the SEED Awards being announced in 2005, SEED has been supporting SMMEs in developing and emerging countries. Today, from Bogotá over Nairobi to Hanoi, 202 SEED Winners contribute to green, inclusive growth in more than 37 countries. Adapting to the support needs of the social and environmental enterprises it works with, SEED also expanded its programme substantially over the past decade, from
Policy and Research, Awards, Support to BDS+
To achieve its goals – promoting entrepreneurship for sustainable development; furthering green, inclusive growth and in this process reducing poverty and environmental degradation – SEED has multiple areas of intervention.
It aims to create impact through on-the-ground work by supporting the SEED Winners and fostering their enterprises’ development. A four-tier approach, the SEED Starter, Catalyser, Accelerator and Replicator have been set up to be able to provide the right tools to an enterprise at any stage. But SEED is equally present when it comes to enhancing and strengthening the enterprises’ ecosystem and shaping green and inclusive policies. Ten years of experience, as well as the successes of the SEED Winners, have proven this holistic approach right. SEED’s aim is to build on this solid core to further expand and create even more positive impact for communities, environments and markets.
10 Key Learnings for the next 10 Years
There is no learning without having to overcome failures; this applies to the SEED Winners as well as to the programme itself. SEED collected the main lessons in its 10 Year Flagship Report, 10 things that it has learned working with various stakeholders over the past decade. From ‘Multi-stakeholder partnerships are hard work, but they’re worth it’ to ‘Small is beautiful, but impactful’, these learnings are universal and meant to be a guide on the rather rough path that still lies ahead in social and environmental entrepreneurship.
In this year 2015, many significant global summits take place, which have the common denominator that the international community is gathering to form a unit in the fight against the prevailing challenges of the 21st century. With the Post-2015 Agenda, the SDGs and the upcoming United Nations Conference on Climate Change, the first steps are being taken. However, it is the developing and the emerging countries which will still carry the largest burden and face the biggest challenges. It is here, where social and environmental enterprises at the grassroots level that apply green and inclusive business models can make a significant contribution. SEED is well-positioned to help these enterprises prosper and has set its focus for the next 10 years around three key areas: enabling, engaging and expanding.
Excited to read the complete list of 10 lessons learned, learn more about the 10 case studies and 10 years of impact? The full 10 Year Flagship Report “Turning Ideas into Impact: Setting the Stage for the next 10 Years of Green and Inclusive Growth through Entrepreneurship” is available for free download here.