SEED Initiative celebrates entrepreneurs accelerating transition to a Green Economy

Nearly 200 participants of a Green Economy symposium organized by the SEED Initiative, which is hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), met today with the 30 global winners of the SEED Awards to look at ways to accelerate the transition to a Green Economy in the developing world.

The Symposium focused on policies needed to accelerate the transition to a Green Economy and on the environmental and social contribution of community-level entrepreneurs in developing countries.


The SEED Awards recognize inspiring social and environmental entrepreneurs whose businesses can help meet sustainable development challenges, boost local economies and alleviate poverty. By helping entrepreneurs to scale-up their activities, SEED aims to refocus policies towards promoting Green Economic initiatives such as renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, water and waste management, eco-friendly tourism and green construction and transport.


The latest SEED Award winners largely come from Africa, placing particular emphasis on initiatives from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa. Together with Egypt, these are pilot countries in a joint project between SEED and UNEP's Green Economy Initiative which is funded largely by the European Union.


Among the winners were a bamboo bicycle project in Ghana that makes use of the country's vast bamboo supplies, a Ugandan enterprise manufacturing stationary from agricultural waste, a Chinese project producing a novel solar device that turns waste heat into electricity and a South African female-run business making a hand-held laundry device that saves water and cuts pollution.


Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "The SEED winners underline how the green shoots of a Green Economy are sprouting across the developing world. Governments and public policymakers can learn a lot from how these entrepreneurs have catalyzed creative solutions to local challenges and in doing so generated livelihoods, employment, environmental benefits and ways of eradicating poverty within and outside their communities."


"Next year's Rio+20 meeting is an opportunity to scale-up and accelerate these kinds of transitions. Our SEED winners offer valuable insights and knowledge on what works and how best this can be realized," he added.


UNEP's Green Economy report, launched earlier this year, shows that investing only two per cent of global GDP into ten key sectors can kick-start a transition towards a low carbon, resource-efficient economy. The report also highlights the Green Economy as a key catalyst for growth and poverty eradication in developing countries, where in some cases close to 90 per cent of the GDP of the poor is linked to natural capital.


Ibrahim Patel, South Africa's Minister of Economic Development said: "The State has a role in supporting small and micro enterprise and the social economy. These activities are crucial for providing new economic opportunities, but there continue to be difficulties in accessing private financing. The Green Economy will be a focus of the Economic Development Department's work in the year ahead."

A SEED Initiative survey, which was also launched today, confirmed that there is little doubt that the majority of local enterprises working on green initiatives are changing the model on how to deliver sustainable development at the community level.


The baseline survey, An Investigation into the Triple Bottom Line Performance of Micro and Small Social and Environmental Enterprise in Developing Countrie, was carried out among winners and applicants to past competitions to see how the enterprises were delivering on social, environmental and business objectives and what policy makers have to do to create an enabling environment for such enterprises to thrive.


According to the survey, the SEED winners are bringing change through capacity training and skills development as well as the introduction of new and more environmentally-friendly technologies and production processes. Moreover, over half of the respondents reported that over 50 percent of those being trained are women.


However, the survey also underlined that two of the biggest obstacles for the success of these enterprises are lack of access to funds and lack of skilled people at the community level. Only 13 percent of respondents indicated that their financing was in place and less than a fifth were able to make a living from their enterprises.


By tracking the progress of the firms as they grow, SEED seeks to understand what policy and decision makers need to do to allow these enterprises to contribute to a greener economy in the developing world.


"As a company, we have recognized the need for sustainable, green development and believe in taking this into the grassroots of South African enterprises. We believe that the SEED Awards strongly mirror our company culture of innovation through hard work and are extremely proud to be associated with UNEP," said Jerry Liu, General Manager for Hisense, South Africa, who are the SEED Awards' corporate sponsor.


All the SEED winners have received a package of individually-tailored support for their business that includes access to relevant expertise and technical assistance, meeting new partners, developing business plans and identifying sources of finance.


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