Role of entrepreneurship in climate action

November 20, 2023

As the importance of urgent climate action heightens every day, so does the need for innovative approaches to tackle climate impacts. One such approach is entrepreneurship, an avenue for generating economic benefits for communities most vulnerable to climate impacts and enhancing the adaptive capacity to address climate risks. 

The 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change points to the importance of multi-stakeholder actions which strengthen scaling up climate resilience. The Report provides that climate action at all levels, including sub-national, national and international that are conducted by governments conducted in collaboration with other stakeholders such as the civil society and the private sector contribute to “enabling and accelerating shifts in development pathways”. Additionally, climate science also highlights that such efforts direct towards sustainability and development which is climate resilient.  Partnerships for scaling up entrepreneurship, through multi-actor partnerships could drive innovative and scaled up climate action, that lead to inclusive long term resilience. 

Climate entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs have the potential to play different roles in climate action. From a choice to produce climate-friendly items to providing technologies for shifting to climate-neutral pathways, private sector and entrepreneurs present the capacity to create positive change through collaborative efforts. This potential has been identified through the UN processes, including the UN process for climate change under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 

Integration of partnerships between public entities and the private ones, identifying avenues for accessing means of implementation form only part of the broader scope of activities where public-private partnerships are built to enhance resource availability for scaled up climate action across the globe. 

Shifting to climate-entrepreneurship

Today, entrepreneurs are taking key steps to convert their businesses into ethical, sustainable and climate-friendly ones. This includes practices that are environmentally sound, inclusive and focused on social empowerment, and causing minimum or no-harm through Greenhouse gas emissions.  

This consists of identifying  practices that are not sustainable or impacting the climate, and moving away from them through  alternative processes which would be contributing to create positive impacts. These changes are of a broad range such as focusing on business practices that are using all material to use; ensuring waste is at a minimum and applying different processes for better use of waste such as recyling and upcyling. 

Additionally, the climate entrepreneurs are shifting from coal powered electricity to solar powered factories for production;  introducing new business concepts in key sectors such as the food systems which includes the wave towards a more plant-based diet.  

Inclusion in entrepreneurship

Climate-friendly approaches need to be implemented together with social and economic practices which are ethical. This includes prioritising inclusion, removing discriminatory practices and facilitating inclusive and transformative approaches in entrepreneurship. 

In a consultation focused in entrepreneurship held in Sri Lanka, majority of the stakeholders highlighted the need for inclusive approaches. This included government officer, bankers, entrepreneurs, civil society, and youth all highlighted the need for approaches that could address the needs related to ensuring inclusive processes to facilitate entrepreneurship.  

Examples of inclusion consisted of entrepreneurship support which is youth-focused; gender responsive; contributing to the empowerment of communities that are highly vulnerable to climate impacts; as well as building on capacities of aspriting entrepreneurs who are not based in the capital, but also outside of the capital. 

The participants also highlighted the need for collaborative actions amongst different actors which facilitate processes that benefit access to information for all; financial inclusion and access to entrepreneurs alike; as well as scaling up access to capacity building and skill development for all. 

Long term resilience

While there are examples of opportunities and good practices that are replicable, there are also challenges and need to be addressed allowign too contribute to empower entrepreneurs to play a better role in climate action. 

Some of the challenges and needs that need to be addressed direct to technical capacities for converting one’s enterprise  to one that is climate-friendly and sustainable; need for financial literacy and access; policies that are on entrepreneurship which need effective implementation mechanisms; as well as empowering communities and vulnerable groups to establish one’s entrepreneurial practices in an informed and successful manner. 

To address these challenges, it is important to focus on the education system and how skills and training could be provided to better invest in climate entrepreneurs at local, national and global scale. In doing so, it would be equally important to focus on youth and children to build technical capacities on climate change, and entrepreneurship which would allow for the younger generation to identify approaches for climate action, as well as concepts for entrepreneurship which are innovative, and technically-sound to facilitate pathways for climate risk management, scaling up capacities to ensure long term climate resilience. 

Note: This column builds on the inputs shared by the participants from multiple stakeholder groups, including government entities, private sector, youth and civil society at a multi-stakeholder consultation on the topic of climate entrepreneurship held in Colombo. It has been published on The Morning as part of the author’s weekly column.

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About the Author
Vositha Wijenayake

Vositha is an attorney-at-law specialising in public international law, with a focus on international environmental law, UN human rights law, refugee law and EU law. She has over a decade of experience in working on climate change, at national and international level. Vositha is a member of the national expert committee on climate change adaptation of the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, national expert on vulnerability and adaptation measures for the Third National Communication of Sri Lanka to the UNFCCC for the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, and is a delegate focusing on compliance, adaptation, loss and damage, and gender for the Sri Lankan delegation to the UNFCCC since 2016. She is also a consultant to the UNFCCC national adaptation plans and policy unit, and worked as a country support consultant to the UNDP NAP Global Support Programme. Vositha has an LLM in public international law from University College London, and an LLB from University of London. ‍