Green entrepreneurship, which can be defined in terms of the output (green products or services) or in terms of the process (green production processes), can contribute to social outcomes by reducing poverty and inequality, decent work that is safe, productive and well-remunerated; support environmental sustainability using efficient products, processes and practices; and promote economic growth through job creation and new businesses, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Emerging sectors such as the green economy have promising potential for the creation of value added and decent jobs that can raise productivity, ultimately promoting inclusive and sustainable growth. According to ILO, the green economy has the potential to create 15 million-60 million additional jobs globally, with a 1.5 per cent improvement in productivity by 2020, and 5 per cent by 2050, while reducing poverty for approximately 400 million smallholder farmers in developing countries through increased incomes.
Recognizing the green economy’s potential to stimulate economic growth, several countries have prioritized job creation in the green sector. South Africa identified job creation in the green sector as a priority area, and as part of its 2011 Green Economy Accord is stimulating employment opportunities in waste management in both the formal and informal sectors. In addition, green jobs are providing sustainable employment while addressing social and environmental objectives, thereby contributing to sustainable development. In Zambia, the United Nations Green Jobs Programme – an ILO, ITC, UNCTAD, UNEP and FAO initiative aimed at creating green jobs through a value chain approach – is improving livelihoods of rural and urban families through private sector development and sustainable housing. At the same time, the development and growth of SMEs in the green sector is playing a vital role in generating employment, with SMEs that adopt green processes, produce green products and services, improving their efficiency and reinvesting profits in their enterprises, in the process stimulating the creation of decent jobs.
Beyond its impact on economic growth, green entrepreneurship can foster social inclusion by tapping into the potential of and enabling socially disadvantaged groups, including the poor, women, young people and those working in SMEs in developing countries to create their own opportunities. For instance, Solar Sisters in Uganda, which employs women in rural areas to sell solar-powered LED lamps for use in homes, is helping the women to raise their living standards and empowering them economically, while addressing environmental concerns, including pollution and inefficiency, and safety issues associated with the use of kerosene lamps.
Green entrepreneurship can promote environmental sustainability. SMEs that adopt environmentally- friendly practices such as those involved in the renewable energy can contribute to job creation while promoting environmental sustainability. As the case study of Helios Eco Vidyut from rural India below illustrates, green entrepreneurship can have a social impact in underserved regions by ensuring energy access in rural areas while creating employment for young people and supporting the development of other green enterprises. Similarly, emerging industries such as eco-tourism can provide opportunities for SMEs to create jobs while raising the awareness of and preserving the environment.