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SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP AS A MEANS TO ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY AND ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT

BKiwuBKiwu ke ✭✭✭

While the world has witnessed tremendous improvement over the past 20 years, some challenges have remained constant and become too big to ignore like a dark stain on a white clothe. Key among them has been environmental degradation and economic inequality. Environmental degradation has come about as a result of uptake in new ways of doing things that does not conform to natures timelines. Energy needs have also depleted some of the world's resources leading to environmental degradation. Carbon emissions for example in industrialized countries have seen third world countries suffer erratic weather patterns that are extreme (extreme rainfall leading to floods and extreme sunshine leading to drought) yet these countries do not have the capacity to deal with erratic, extreme weather patterns. In 2011, the Kyoto Protocol was established and among other things, the rich countries were to pay the poor countries for the damages their face as a result of their activities that are injurious to the climate. While this method may be working, it simply encourages the rich countries to continue with their bad habits since the amount to be paid is technically a slap on the wrist compared to the damage done to the environment. Secondly, owing to poor accountability mechanisms in the third world countries, the money paid for environmental repair does not have an impact on the intended recipients who are mostly the economically disadvantaged key among them people with disabilities. Thirdly, most of the commitments made during these environmental meetings do not have sustainability mechanisms and only focus on the financial pledges made by the industrialized countries.


In business circles, Public Private Partnership (PPP) is a common arrangement where there is collaboration of the Government and the Private Sector for a common goal. PPPs have gained prominence mostly in the construction industry for the construction of key infrastructure projects such as roads where the Government provides the land, and the Private Sector provides the capital, manpower and expertise to actualize the project. The Private investor recoup their capital investment by charging levies for a period of time before handing over the project to the Government after getting their profits back. A new kind of PPP has come up of late as remedy to address environmental degradation and economic inequality. Christened People Planet Profit, the model looks at how to do business without hurting the environment while still maintaining a healthy bottom-line (profit) while doing the business. PPP is the new name and model for what has been otherwise called Social Entrepreneurship.


Social Entrepreneurship entails doing business for a social cause so as to positively affect people that are linked to the cause in question. Social Entrepreneurship is not to be confused with charity since it has to make business sense and generate income for it to be sustainable. A common example is the turning of elephant waste into paper among in areas that live close to wild animals. The idea is to primarily discourage poaching of elephants as well as kill the need to cut trees to make paper so that elephant feed off the trees to produce waste which is turned to paper and then sold for the community to make money and sustain themselves and the cycle continues.


As result of this, various startups have risen to address environmental challenges that can have a positive social and economic impact on the lives of people. For example, a Company called Pinatex, who gather the leaves of pineapples that are a waste product after peeling pineapples then mix it with corn to make what is called vegan leather. The vegan leather is light, strong and water resistant which makes it the perfect alternative to leather. This is because fashion companies are turning away from leather because of environmental concerns around leather tanning, hence fashion brands are looking for environmentally sustainable ways to maintain their quality products without hurting the price of their products. Hence for environmentally sustainable produced leather, vegan leather is the way to go.


The muscle behind the booming social entrepreneurship sector is an investing method called impact investing. Impact investing refers to investments made to achieve positive social and environmental impact while having a return on investment. An example of Impact investing has been microfinance banking propriated by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus. As of December 3 2021, the impact investment market was worth 715 billion dollars.


To achieve economic empowerment, PWDs in Kenya should embrace social entrepreneurship. Since startups involved in this space want to expand, disability organizations should consider franchising as a method of doing business with these startups. Franchising is where a business gives permission to a person to sell its products under the company's name in a new place and the business owner does not have to open new branches on himself. An example of a Franchise in Kenya is the East African Breweries Limited (EABL) that sells some of the International Alcoholic brands in Kenya such as Guinness. Bic Pens are also an international consumer brand once owned by late Billionaire Dr Chris Kirubi through a franchising agreement.


After Franchising has been done, the disability organizations can then zone the businesses according to the resources available. this would also prevent over saturation of the same product everywhere as has been the case with the beads (ushanga) business. With such an arrangement, DPOs will have a stable source of income, economic empowerment of PWDs, there will be a fast adoption of environmentally friendly products as well as a sustained change of behaviour towards environmental consciousness by the masses. Problem solved. Isn't it?

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