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Why Kenya must shift to sustainable entrepreneurship


Why Kenya must shift to sustainable entrepreneurship

Wednesday April 19 2023
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Sustainable entrepreneurship means engaging in activities that restore or nurture the environment and society, without sacrificing economic growth. FILE PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

In his famous I Have a Dream speech, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr made a clarion call that is still relevant today; “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

As the clock ticks towards 2030, the world finds itself in a critical decade for climate action and the achievement of sustainable development goals.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that we have to wake up to the fierce urgency of the now and snap back from our collective self-induced myopia.

At the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Egypt, among key takeaways was the need to pivot towards implementation of climate pledges, and to hold businesses and institutions to account when it comes to their net zero commitments.

This underscores the need to adopt sustainable entrepreneurship, which advocates for pursuing economic opportunities without undermining the environmental and social environments in which they operate.

Sustainable entrepreneurship means engaging in activities that restore or nurture the environment and society, without sacrificing economic growth.

It emphasises the integration of sustainable practices into the core business model and processes rather than as an add-on or optional extras.

This means looking at your entire business model through a sustainability lens. From the value proposition, customer segments, channels of your products and services, customer relationships, revenue streams, key resources and assets, activities of the business, and partners that make it work, to the operating costs.

Sustainable business modelling also requires answering the question of who the beneficiaries of the business are, and that it is pegged on at least one of the sustainable development goals.

However, this shift is not easy. The default setting of entrepreneurship for a long time has been the prioritisation of financial performance and profits.

This means that in many instances, becoming a sustainable business might mean overhauling crucial tenets of an already existing business model, which comes with significant demands on financial, human, and natural resources.

Streamlining a business venture into the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit, therefore, comes with its fair share of pain points.

Despite the challenges, we must not allow businesses to continue exploiting the environment and society under the guise of corporate social responsibility.

Some businesses are making substantial financial contributions towards climate change mitigation efforts while retaining business models that reverse net zero efforts.

This is unacceptable, and we must not look the other way. Greenwashing and perpetuating false narratives of climate action only exacerbate the problem.

The sustainable road is the best route in the long term. There is enough evidence to show that businesses can contribute to society and the environment while remaining competitive, attracting and retaining customers, and creating long-term value for all stakeholders, not just shareholders.

The writer is a strategic communications specialist and a sustainability champion. [email protected]