By: Hninn Thanlwin Thit from Yangon, Myanmar
What is an entrepreneur?
It’s a term used very widely today, essentially meaning a self-motivated, passion-driven risk-taker who is pursuing a business venture. Films like The Social Network and Joy portray lives of well-known entrepreneurs and perhaps, you even have friends in your social circle who are developing start-ups and might as well be on their way to entrepreneurship. But how can we use entrepreneurship for the sake of greater good rather than profit?
These kinds of entrepreneurs try to tackle the various societal issues facing humanity today; be it creating virtual lessons for children in less privileged areas or providing food donations to homeless people. Whatever mission these entrepreneurs target, they are in some way contributing to the SDGs which we intend to reach by 2030. All of our locally impactful efforts come together to create collective actions that pave the way for a better and more sustainable future.
So, how does one achieve these things?
Unsurprisingly, there’s really no fixed guideline but there IS a to-do list. Or two. But these are ones you have to come up with yourself. It starts with pondering what you’re passionate about. I don’t know about you but my light-bulb moment often occurs very spontaneously and I try (emphasis on ‘try’!) to progress it forwards. It’s ever-so difficult to fully grasp it but hey, you got to give it a go before you can even claim you’ve tried.
No matter how inexperienced you are or how socially-savvy you don’t think you are, you can be an entrepreneur and yes, entrepreneurs can AND should all contribute to the SDGs. The challenges that await us are ones that the private sector aka entrepreneurs can resolve through innovation and creativity. Take SDG #9 ‘Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure’ for instance. Improving industries and infrastructure for better resilience and diversification is what this target focuses on and guess what, that’s exactly what tech entrepreneurs like Elon Musk do!
We’ve seen a wave of those who dedicate themselves to striving towards social good and justice and that’s what coined ‘social entrepreneur’ recently. The non-profit, the Malala Fund, say, improves access to education for women which is a huge step towards SDG #4 ‘Quality Education’ and SDG #5 ‘Gender Equality’. As some pinpoint on low-income communities in less developed countries, we’ve seen the rise of microfinance and microcredit which tackle SDG #1 ‘No Poverty’ as well as SDG #2 ‘Zero Hunger’. There are way too many brilliant initiatives to describe here but you get what I mean. There are no boundaries we are confined in to change the world for better, especially not in today’s globalization and cross-cultural approaches.
Nevertheless, if you think the bright idea you have in mind might not lead to a definite social enterprise, that’s not an issue either: entrepreneurs can tackle these global goals by maintaining corporate social responsibility (CSR). That sounds like a pretty big word but it’s simple – entrepreneurs and businesses alike should act responsibly. That ranges from the bare minimum of paying your team a decent wage for SDG #8 ‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’ to taking decisive measures so that your firm remains transparent and uncorrupted for SDG #16 ‘Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions’.
Entrepreneurship is a huge nudge closer to achieving the SDGs. Especially as proven by Catalyst 2030 – a global movement of social entrepreneurs and social innovators looking to attain the SDGs by 2030 – which has gone as far as to collaborate with international governments and philanthropists amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Every crisis is an opportunity and as entrepreneurs are constantly innovating and re-inventing their spheres and as we are only seven years short of reaching 2030 – we should be fueled by a sense of urgency and commitment to change the world for the better, starting with small entrepreneurial steps.