Scaling up Social Enterprise for Sustainable Landscapes

The Social Enterprise Alliance defines social enterprises as “organizations that address a basic unmet need or solve a social problem through a market-driven approach.” Social enterprises are businesses that use markets to provide goods and services, but they reinvest their earnings into social or environmental initiatives. Social enterprises are driven by environmental, cultural or social principles, rather than by maximizing profits. They strive to make a difference in the world and bring about positive change.

Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka, a global organization dedicated to identifying and supporting social entrepreneurs, says that “social entrepreneurs are the essential corrective force. They are system-changing entrepreneurs. And from deep within they, and therefore their work, are committed to the good of all.”

Since the 1980’s, when Ashoka first began to recognize and organize a network of change-makers and entrepreneurs, the movement has grown and evolved.

It has recognized problems and implemented market-driven solutions to challenges throughout various sectors. Thriving models like Terracycle or the One AcreFund have paved the way with examples, demonstrating that it is possible to build a sustainable and economically viable business model around a social cause. The success of their business models depends not only on return on investment (ROI) but social return on investment (SROI).  Unlike the ROI, which is a parameter that solely assesses financial profitability, the SROI is a tool that quantifies extra-financial impacts, including the broader social, environmental, cultural and economic impacts of an activity or business.

The world has recently seen a surge of interest in social enterprise projects. The rise of consumer consciousness is expanding opportunities for businesses to incorporate the value of social impact into product prices.

The sectors of agriculture, forestry and the environment are all experiencing growth in the number of social entrepreneurship initiatives, projects and businesses that are being leveraged to market-driven social good. These projects tackle issues such as deforestation, reforestation, water conservation and waste management. A network of projects that provide localized solutions to sustainable landscape problems is growing. To what extent can this movement be a part of the solution toolbox toward more sustainable land management?

The panelists that will be discussing social entrepreneurship have direct experience being part of social enterprises, accelerators and working with financing solutions.They will express their views on the following:

  1. To what extent do they believe that social enterprises can have important, sustainable landscape impacts?

  2. What kind of social return on investment (SROI) have we seen from funding that has been directed into social enterprises driven by sustainable landscape objectives? How is the SROI assessed and what is the impact?

  3. How accessible are financing options to social entrepreneurs? From the funder’s perspective, what are the obstacles and opportunities in making loans and financing available? And, from the social enterprise’s perspective, what are the obstacles and opportunities in accessing financing options?

  4. What examples do we currently have in this sector? What kind of social enterprises can already serve as models? Are we seeing models that have achieved scale through funding support?

  5. What lessons can participants share about supporting this sector in meaningful ways?

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Fashion for the SDGs: Sustainable supply chains

Time: 10.15 – 11.45 (US East Coast Time)

When most think about contributing factors to environmental health and Climate Change, typically we think about energy production, shipping, and agriculture. What often flies under the radar is the immense contribution from the fashion and textile industry.

‘The Fashion industry – worth $3 trillion annually – is clearly an environmental emergency’, warned top UN officials. According to Olga Algayerova, the Executive Secretary of the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe, the Fashion industry is the second biggest consumer of water and produces 20% of global wastewater while producing approximately 10% of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Simply addressing the sustainability of this supply chain could drastically reduce the impact of fashion and textile industries.

While the sustainability of the Fashion industry’s supply chain should already be cause for serious concern, the main driver of the Fashion industry’s environmental epidemic is a shift in consumer behavior. Compared to 2000, the average consumer in 2018 is purchasing 60% more clothes but wearing them for half the time and in the case of 40% of clothes, not wearing them at all. Bearing in mind the rate of population growth, consumption will rise by 63%, from 62 million tons today to 102 million tons in 2039—an equivalent of more than 500 billion T-shirts.This monumental shift in consumer behavior puts immense pressure on not just the supply chains of these industries, but also on natural resources, ecosystems and local communities that these supply chains depend on.

The fashion and textile industries is an engine for global development. Being one of the world’s largest consumer industries, it generated $1.5 trillion in annual apparel and footwear revenues in 2016 and employs approximately 60 million people. There is no question that the industry is a force for economic and social progress, but currently it does not do enough to ensure sustainability along its supply chain.

Addressing the production and consumption patterns of the fashion industry to improve sustainability would have a domino effect on many aspects of development and provide a visible and meaningful contribution to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Tune into this discussion of how the Fashion and Textile industries can make meaningful contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals. We will be joined by experts from UNEP, Future Tech Lab, Fashion for Conservation and more to discuss steps in ensuring sustainability in fashion and textile supply chains and to highlight fair and equitable investments as well as accelerating the provision of green jobs for youth and women especially in rural areas.


Should you have any questions or enquiries, do not hesitate to contact GLF Digital Summit Coordinator Charlie Nelson at c.nelson@cgiar.orgfor further information.

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The Role of Private Capital in Conservation

Time: 13.00 – 15.00 (USA East Coast Time)

There is a huge gap between the level of funding that is needed to protect the world’s valuable ecosystems, and actual money that is being directed into them, most of which, to date, has come from public or charitable sources. However, this is truly beginning to change, with an increase in the use of private capital being used to achieve positive conservation outcomes along with competitive commercial returns.

“Conservation finance” investments can now be used to point to specific examples of how investments can be structured and show performance, as well as how we demonstrate the high levels of measurable positive social and environmental impact of these investments.

The funding mechanism for these forest conservation projects which protect vulnerable landscapes from deforestation and degradation, is primarily carbon finance. The projects generate verified REDD+ carbon credits which are sold to companies as part of their solutions to reduce net emissions. By bringing a tangible value to the carbon-reducing services forests perform, those companies are making critical forest ecosystems more valuable standing than felled or burned for the land beneath them.

This flow of investment is financing a transition to sustainable land use and commodity production and causes a chain reaction of other positive impacts such as protecting biodiversity, supporting endangered species, empowering women and bringing new jobs to local communities.

Natural solutions to carbon emissions, such as forest-based carbon credits, are recognised by scientists as one of the most powerful and immediate ways to tackle climate change and meet the Paris Agreement reduction goals, with better land management accounting for 37% of all emissions cuts needed by 2030 and critical alongside the energy transition . Avoiding deforestation is also the most cost-effective action for capturing, avoiding and storing carbon emissions with nearly 2GT of potential at <$10/tonne .

By expanding the carbon markets to new sectors and creating further demand for forest-based carbon credits at their true value, conservation finance is absolutely key to protecting critical ecosystems, and enabling businesses and consumers to take much needed climate action.

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