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Entrepreneurs in Mexico City Turn Water Risk into Opportunity

This post was co-authored with Jose Carlos Lombana, co-founder of Sistemas de Captación de Agua Pluvial (SCAP).

This story is part of the “Aqueduct Sneak Peek” series. Aqueduct Sneak Peek provides an early look at how various stakeholders can use Aqueduct’s updated global water risk maps, which will be released in January 2013. Read more posts in this series.

A study by scientists at The Nature Conservancy and other institutions estimates that by 2050, more than 1 billion city dwellers may be living on less than one bathtub’s worth of water a day. While this and other water risks are undeniably troubling, they can be overcome in many cases. With the right data and innovation, entrepreneurs can turn these risks into business opportunities.

Rainwater Harvesting Solutions in Mexico City

Mexico City, the biggest metropolis in the Western hemisphere, faces significant water shortages, leaving many domestic, agricultural, and industrial users exposed to severe water-related risks. The city was built on the foundations of the Aztec capital, on the bed of Lake Texcoco. Today, centuries later, its groundwater supplies are rapidly diminishing, and it relies on a network of reservoirs and decaying infrastructure to pump in water from hundreds of miles away. Furthermore, urban growth and climate change are pushing Mexico City’s water supply to the edge. Reservoirs were dangerously low during the 2009 drought, leading the government to cut off water in some areas of the city.

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New “sSWOT” Guide Can Help Boost Corporate Sustainability

Sarah Cohen, an intern with WRI's Markets and Enterprise Program, also contributed to this blog post.

Do you have colleagues who roll their eyes when they hear the words “environment” or “sustainability?” The sad truth is that environmental issues are not always a passion for everyone at every organization. However, climate change and other environmental challenges are shaping tomorrow’s markets—so how do you draw connections between sustainability and business value for those who may not see it right away?

Today, WRI is releasing a guide to address this question and many more related to corporate sustainability. The guide—which was road-tested this summer by a dozen major companies like Target, Method, and Staples—adds a sustainability component to the traditional Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis that corporations have relied on for more than 50 years. Our sustainability SWOT, or “sSWOT,” is designed to help corporate sustainability champions engage colleagues, customers, suppliers, and even competitors to identify links to business risks and brainstorm new business opportunities.

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Updated Guide Helps Businesses Source Sustainable Wood and Paper Products

Forests are vitally important for the global environment, economy, and population. The forest sector employs 13.7 million workers and contributes to about 1 percent of the global GDP. Plus, an estimated 500 million people around the world directly depend on forests for their livelihoods.

But forests are also under threat. From 2000-2010, about 15 million hectares of the world’s forests were cleared, and a 2004 assessment estimated that 8-10 percent of the global wood trade is of illegal origin. In addition to deforestation, illegal logging can cause government revenue losses, poverty, unfair competition with legally sourced goods, unplanned and uncontrolled forest management, conflicts, and other illicit activities that can occur in instances where illegal logging’s proceeds are linked to organized crime and corruption.

But there are solutions. One way to improve forest management across the globe is for businesses, governments, and citizens to seek out and demand sustainably harvested wood and paper products.

Today, WRI and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) released the third edition of a guide that helps businesses develop sustainable policies and seek out sustainably harvested wood and paper products. The updated guide, Sustainable Procurement of Wood and Paper-Based Products, is accompanied by a revamped website.

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sSWOT

A Sustainability SWOT

The sustainability Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats analysis (sSWOT) is designed to help drive action and collaboration on environmental challenges, creating business risks and opportunities. sSWOT helps individuals engage and motivate colleagues—particularly those with limited...

Accelerators: A Critical Component in Scaling Up Environmental Entrepreneurship

This post was co-written with Saurabh Lall, Research Director of Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE). ANDE is a global network of over 170 member organizations that focus on the potential of small and growing businesses (SGBs) around the world to create economic, social and environmental impact.

Over the past few years, we have seen tremendous growth in impact investing, investments made to generate both a financial and a social/environmental return. The sector now manages about US$40 billion.

While this growth on the supply side of mission-driven capital has been tremendous, we must now focus on the demand side—in other words, the entrepreneurs themselves. It’s essential to ensure that there are enough entrepreneurs and small and growing businesses (SGBs) out there to address today’s complex, global challenges. These businesses must also have the capacity to take on the type of capital that impact investors have to offer. Accelerators and incubators are and will be increasingly critical to achieving these goals.

Accelerators are groups that provide business development support to enterprises with existing customers and revenue, while incubators typically serve earlier stage enterprises (pre-customers and pre-revenue). These types of groups can help grow environmental entrepreneurship by ensuring that demand meets supply; in other words, a strong pipeline of deals is ready to meet the growing supply of capital.

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Q&A with Jed Emerson: How Can Impact Investing Help Environmental Entrepreneurship Grow?

The Global Impact Investment Network defines impact investments as “investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.” Few people understand that concept better than Jed Emerson.

A recognized international leader in the field of strategic philanthropy and impact investing, Emerson has spent more than two decades exploring how capital investment strategies may be executed to create multiple returns. Currently, he is Chief Impact Strategist at ImpactAssets, a senior fellow with Heidelberg University’s Center for Social Investing, and a senior advisor to the Sterling Group in Hong Kong. In 2011, he co-authored the book, Impact Investing: Transforming How We Make Money While Making A Difference, the first book published on the topic of impact investing. We caught up with Emerson to discuss how impact investors can help developing market entrepreneurs increase their economic, environmental, and social impacts.

1) If you were in an elevator with a promising developing country environmental entrepreneur, what would be your advice on how to lock-in investment (whether from the traditional or impact investment community)?

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The Challenge of Strengthening Environmental Entrepreneurship

This is the first installment of a five-part blog series on scaling environmental entrepreneurship in emerging markets. In forthcoming posts, experts in the field will provide insights on how business accelerators, technical assistance providers, investors, and the philanthropic community can work with developing market entrepreneurs to increase their economic, environmental, and social impacts.

One of the greatest challenges of our time is achieving economic development without harming the planet and local communities. Entrepreneurship can play a critical role in solving this dilemma.

In fact, entrepreneurs and the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) they create contribute up to 78 percent of employment and more than 29 percent of GDP in developing economies. These types of businesses play an invaluable role in creating jobs, spurring community growth, and alleviating poverty. Some of these SMEs create even more value by generating clear, measurable environmental benefits.

But the problem is that these entrepreneurs face a host of challenges when it comes to growing their businesses and succeeding. As Global Entrepreneurship Week is celebrated across the world this week, it’s a good time to examine the importance of environmentally focused entrepreneurs as well as the difficulties they face.

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New Ventures

Voices of the Entrepreneurs

“Voices of the Entrepreneurs” is both a celebration of what New Ventures has achieved so far and a springboard to its future. This report highlights the experience of 32 New Ventures entrepreneurs and provides valuable insights into the challenges that hinder the growth of environmental...

3 Companies that Are Making Money by Embracing Sustainability

Superstorm Sandy and the subsequent Nor’easter were the biggest news this week and last. The combination of two powerful forces resulted in unprecedented and widespread damage. Our thoughts are with those who have been impacted.

I can’t help but draw the connection between our recent extreme weather and businesses today—corporations are increasingly recognizing that they, too, are navigating two powerful forces. One force demands financial results, while the other requires increasingly sophisticated techniques to respond to climate, energy, resource scarcity, and other sustainability risks. The ways businesses navigate both these forces will determine whether they are truly viable over the long-term.

3 Pioneering Businesses Focused on Profits and Environmental Stewardship

On the eve of Hurricane Sandy, I moderated a Net Impact conference panel titled “Driving Bolder Investments in Sustainability.” This panel brought together representatives from Waste Management, Intel, and Pepsi to discuss how sustainability is no longer an add-on, but is becoming core to business planning. These three companies are incorporating environmental initiatives in order to shield themselves from business risk and boost their profits.

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