Being in New Zealand, I had the pleasure of joining the Asia Pacific UN @GlobalCompact Leaders Summit and was able to join the Stockholm+50 Livestream too.
The triple planetary crisis was a consistent theme, as was the discussion around how businesses can contribute to sustainable development. The UN Compact also launched its China strategy to accelerate and scale the collective impact of China's SMEs to drive progress toward the SDGs.
SMEs are the key to sustainability
Key to sustainability are SMEs; they are in the driving seat for transformational change toward sustainable development.
We often hear the phrase building back better; it is used by governments and NGOs worldwide. Post-Covid, we have a greater appreciation for the impact humans have on the environment and how the imbalance is creating additional pressures.
Creating a sustainable global economy with shared prosperity is a monumental task but not insurmountable. Making peace with nature has been cited as a vital way to make this happen.
The natural environment is humanity's first line of defence, so nature-based solutions and ecosystem-based approaches are crucial to building resilience in society for poverty eradication, health, food security, and economic prosperity.
"You can see a lot more young entrepreneurs adopting the Sustainable Development Goals today." Jason Ho, Co-Founder of BEYOND International Technology Innovation Expo.
Part of that process has to be greening the economy, trade and finance arrangements. We have to increase accountability and ensure the correct regulations and policies are in place.
Research around the globe consistently points to the fact that businesses can manage risks brought by climate change much better when they take advantage of green economic opportunities, at home and through cross-border trade.
Building climate competitiveness
Data from the International Trade Centre, for instance, illustrates that resilient firms are five times less likely to lay off workers and more likely to have stable sales. To improve the climate competitiveness of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), a strategic priority for
trade promotion bodies around the globe must be to embrace sustainability. By developing expertise to help SMEs transition to a low-carbon economy and working in partnership with government, academia, and businesses, the rate of adopted green growth initiatives would accelerate.
Advocating on behalf of small firms in green trade is also vital. Local trade promotion bodies can build support ecosystems; facilitate SME finance by being a trusted intermediary, and use training and innovation to strengthen the capacity of SMEs to go green.
In the UK, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)announced that the British government plans to create thousands of green jobs following the first meeting of the country's first-ever dedicated group for creating UK green job opportunities. The Green Jobs Delivery Group say 480,000 skilled green jobs will be created by 2030 as part of prime minister Boris Johnson's energy security strategy.
While this is good news, more support is required for startups, entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to catalyze innovation in and scaling up of climate change solutions.
With the immediate impact of food security being felt worldwide, emerging digital solutions for the energy-water-food nexus is positive. New sustainable business models are being created, which is also helping to increase resilience against the adverse effects of climate change.
Investment in digital technologies to help enhance resource-efficient production and heighten environmental standards in manufacturing, for example, are helping some SMEs in the sector, but more needs to be done, and across more sectors.
On the flip side, the adoption of digital technologies also poses the risk of leaving people without adequate skills behind. Concerted efforts are required to ensure that SMEs are empowered to embrace the opportunities and are also given the means to upskill their workforce and operations.
Without SMEs, we will struggle to meet net-zero targets and create a sustainable future.
SDG Changemakers work with SMEs, Associations and trade bodies to support the sector to transition to sustainable business models. We firmly believe that businesses of all sizes can Be Bold, Be Heard and Be the Change.