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Green Entrepreneurship: helping end youth unemployment

(Photo by Tamara Kaunda for our partner IIED.)

Entrepreneurs in the ‘green’ sector, by definition, provide environmentally-friendly products and services. But sometimes what defines ‘green entrepreneurs’ is the fact that they provide their products or services through an environmentally-friendly process or with the help of clean technologies - as in eco-tourism, for example. Because of their business skills, passion and respect for our planet, most green entrepreneurs consider both output (products and services) and process (production) in their business models. This way, they create employment and income, while reducing the overall negative environmental impact of their final product or service.

The young elephant in the room

Job markets around the globe tend to prefer more experienced workers over those who just entered the labour market.  In many places, the job opportunities themselves are very limited. Youth unemployment figures are often given by continent or region, which conceals the fact that in some countries about half the youth population is unemployed. In Europe for example, Germany’s relatively low youth unemployment figures are able to mask the mass unemployment figures of Greek youth. And in Latin America, low figures in Guatemala can conceal the massive number of young women and men without a job elsewhere on the continent.

Green Entrepreneurship as a solution for youth unemployment

Green Entrepreneurship offers us an excellent way to tackle youth unemployment. To start with, it has relatively low entry-level requirements for young women and men. And its technical aspects can provide an outlet for those interested in innovative business solutions – who are often young people. In addition, the creation of new companies allows, at least in theory, equal access in terms of gender and is not limited to either rural or urban areas. Unfortunately, in practice, many young women still have to overcome extra hurdles to become entrepreneurs and stay and grow in their businesses. But stimulating Green Entrepreneurship can certainly provide new and inclusive employment opportunities for all and thereby contribute to the push for equal rights for women.

Green by all, Green for all

Although the concept might originate from technical innovations such as pollution reduction, clean production processes and resource efficiency, today’s Green Entrepreneurship goes way beyond this narrow, technology-based definition. It can nurture a culture of lifecycle-based thinking and stimulate green innovation at the societal level. Green Entrepreneurship has the potential to create a shift in peoples’ mindsets towards seeking out and demanding green products and services, which will boost both employment and environmental gains. While we squarely face the ugly truth of forced migration, unemployment, the adverse effects of climate change and the social pressure that all of this brings with it, we should be confident in investing in the positive and exciting solutions the field of Green Entrepreneurship can offer to present and future generations of young people around to globe.

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