Why Social Entrepreneurship is Vital to the SDGs: 15 Award-Winning Entrepreneurs Share their Insights
In late 2018, new reports showed something the global development industry did not want to see: We are not on track to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, amidst this sobering news, the social business world has remained a bright spot. The ongoing growth of the sector is showing that, by investing in dedicated, innovative entrepreneurs, the global community can overcome this slow progress toward the SDGs and create a world with far fewer inequalities and injustices by 2030.
I recently had the chance to connect with award-winning social entrepreneurs from around the world at the Social Capital Markets conference in San Francisco. I asked them all how entrepreneurship can help us achieve the SDGs, and their answers highlighted many of the reasons the sector is moving to the forefront of the global development agenda. I’ve compiled 15 of their responses below.
“Social enterprises offer financially self-sustaining models for positive social change. As such, they have an important role to play in achieving the SDGs – especially considering the estimated $2.5 trillion annual deficit in funding needed to achieve them.”
“The key word in the Sustainable Development Goals, is SUSTAINABLE. Without social enterprises, development to achieve these goals will not be sustainable.”
“We know that some of society’s most daunting issues (including the SDGs) can no longer be addressed incrementally through well-intentioned but resource-limited NGOs and nonprofit organizations. Business affords what no other entity can: the resources to scale solutions for massive impact.”
“The SDGs are not attainable by any one organization by design. Achieving them will require collaboration across sectors, organizations and individuals dedicated to improving the human experience for all. Social enterprise balances sustainability and impact, paving the way to realize a long-term vision with measurable short-term steps.”
Tori Samples, CEO at Leaf Global Fintech
“Social enterprises are guided by a moral compass, which I strongly believe is what helps drive them towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Saieshan Govinder, CEO at EduAfrika
“The SDGs aren’t achievable without wide buy-in from all, just as sustainability isn’t possible without inclusiveness. Social enterprise, because it’s engrained with sense of responsibility to community, promotes this inclusiveness.”
“Social enterprise can move away from profit as the primary motive – embracing the power and potential for us to work in a way that puts sustainability, equity and justice at the center.”
“Social enterprises allow society to react with smart, market-oriented solutions to global problems that can no longer be solved by governments. It brings stakeholders together to think and build return on impact in a viable way.”
“To achieve the SDGs, we must scale up sustainable systems that can help us reach them, and then maintain them. Social enterprises are sustainable by design and focused on solving the very challenges created by old systems.”
Kristin Kagetsu, CEO at Saathi Eco Innovations
“The depth of the issues that the Sustainable Development Goals are seeking to achieve need the most catalytic and innovative engagements, these are represented by the determination and vision of social enterprises.”
“The sustainable development goals are daunting, and the entire world needs to move, to meet those goals. Social enterprises will play an integral role in moving people, primarily since they are in close contact with the communities that need to move.”
“The SDGs are critically important, and in order to achieve them we need the full force of both public and private sector working together in order to fundamentally shift systems, move resources, and create more equity.”
“There is tremendous value created in tackling these goals, it makes sense that value can be generated – and should be invested – to help social entrepreneurs achieve them.”
“Social enterprises are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals because collectively they represent a new generation of energized leaders, focused on change at scale.”
“Having a concrete and well-defined social impact goal rather than enterprise-based commercial intent is a strong driver to add much more value to what you try to achieve.”
While progress towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals is behind target, the groundswell of support coming from entrepreneurs should give us hope. These new organizations, designed with sustainability in mind, are tackling the SDGs in innovative and scalable ways — many specifically focusing on a handful of the 169 targets that demonstrate progress towards these goals. The work of these social entrepreneurs may hold the key not only to achieving the global goals, but to creating a new paradigm for development that can guide the sector toward more lasting impact.
Image courtesy of the United Nations.