Reconciling profit with purpose – young green entrepreneurs create inclusive green jobs for the future

“This is my message to young people: You are not too small to make a change!” 

That is the rallying cry of Herbert Murungi, a young environmental entrepreneur whose small business RESI promotes the use of biogas, a renewable fuel from organic matter such as food scraps, in rural Uganda to create a shift from less sustainable energy. 

And Herbert is not alone among the more than half a million disadvantaged young entrepreneurs globally that Youth Business International has supported into business in recent years.  

Increasingly, the worlds of youth climate activism and green entrepreneurship are intersecting, with the potential for emerging business leaders to create new solutions that address the environmental and social challenges of our time and to become agents of change for wider social shifts. 

Throughout COP26, high-level commitments on critical environmental challenges have been made by governments, financial institutions, and global corporations. But for a truly just transition, green economic growth must include young peoples’ needs and allow young people to lead. 

Speaking in Glasgow today at the “Inclusive Green Jobs” panel, hosted by Accenture, YBI’s CEO Anita Tiessen highlighted the critical role that micro and small entrepreneurs can play in both starting locally rooted green businesses and creating decent jobs for young people.  

Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) are at the heart of economies around the world — developing locally relevant business solutions and creating jobs – with the potential to be real drivers of change from the ground up. And they operate in the industries critical for the environmental transition: transport, agriculture and forestry, water and waste management, construction, renewable energy and manufacturing. 

The young entrepreneurs supported into business by the Youth Business International network are developing green enterprises in those sectors, for example: 

  • Marta Vania Uetala, CEO of BioMec Prosthetics in Mozambique, combines her passion for reducing plastic waste in oceans and supporting disabled people by designing and producing prosthetics made from discarded plastic 
  • Young agripreneurs in Kenya are driving innovative solutions in organic farming, insect protein for animal feed and creation of urban food gardens 
  • The Rokani Social Cooperative in Greece – founded by five young entrepreneurs – focuses on creating a local circular economy, producing custom made items like furniture from reusable wood, metal and plastics 

These young entrepreneurs – part of a generation at the forefront of vital environmental and social justice  – have the potential to solve some of the greatest challenges of our time through establishing businesses with an environmental and social mission. But they need support to effectively navigate profit with purpose.  

Learnings from YBI’s Social and Green Impact Accelerator, and related research, have highlighted the specific support that young entrepreneurs need to turn their environmental passion into a viable business. 

Navigating passion and purpose: Young green and social entrepreneurs need to understand how to align passion and purpose alongside profit. They need to be able to navigate potential tensions and tradeoffs between social impact and profit to ensure the purpose of the business is met and can be sustained.  

Measuring impact: As the purpose of a green or social enterprise is to make a positive impact, rather than just profit, it is vital to measure and demonstrate that impact to guide planning and decision making, ensure accountability and transparency, and attract funding and investments.  

Accessing capital: Many social and green enterprises tend to be more innovative, risky or less profitable, which can make it more difficult to secure funding. To improve their chances of attracting investments, it is vital that young green and social entrepreneurs are able to demonstrate a financially sustainable business model.  

With their passion, purpose, and perseverance young people have enormous potential to lead us into a more sustainable, equitable and inclusive future. Running a responsible green or social business enables them to generate income, create jobs and economic growth while helping us achieve the just transition that we aspire to and young people deserve. 

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