Stephen Distante is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member currently serving as president of the New York Chapter, and is CEO of Vanderbilt Securities, LLC. As EO's ambassador to the UN and a staunch supporter of social entrepreneurship, we asked Stephen about EO's new global initiative to support the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Here's what he had to say.
As EO celebrates its 30th year, it's fitting that our 12,000+ member-leaders commit to tackling a new challenge that's bigger than all of us, yet within our collective reach. We have the potential to enact positive, life-enhancing change to transform more than the lives of our members, their employees and the communities we serve. Through social entrepreneurship, we can transform the world.
On 19 September 2017, during the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, more than 50 EO members alongside international dignitaries witnessed a critical moment in our organization's evolution. We pledged our support of the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change by 2030. This pledge further bolsters EO's commitment to social entrepreneurship but on a grand scale: It provides each member with the opportunity to truly make a mark, be significant and change the world.
The SDGs are a bold, well-defined series of 17 goals and 169 specific targets aiming to:
- Erase poverty and hunger
- Protect the planet through sustainable use of natural resources
- Minimize climate change by acting in harmony with nature
- Ensure equality and prosperity for all
- Foster peace and freedom from fear and violence
- Revitalize a global sustainable development partnership where all countries work in solidarity to profoundly improve the entire world.
It's a monumental commitment, but one EO is ideally positioned to make.
The disruptive power of social entrepreneurship
As entrepreneurs, we're all aware of the concepts of sustainability, impact entrepreneurship and social causes. However, depending on when you were born, you may have been raised in an era when the goal of running a business was to make a large profit and amass a huge fortune―and only after decades of such success would the business owner consider giving some of that fortune away to improve our world.
Social entrepreneurship has disrupted that old-school business mindset. The DNA of the social entrepreneur is to engineer our businesses to make a positive social impact from the very start rather than waiting decades before contributing. That's the modern way of doing business, and because it's what Millennials and younger generations expect, it will soon be the only successful way to run a company. And it's the way of business that EO has recently made a very powerful commitment to support.
Where big business proves ineffective, entrepreneurs thrive
From the moment I met Sergio Fernandez de Cordova, EO New York's chapter patron, we enjoyed substantive discussions about the interplay between business and sustainability. Sergio has ties with the UN, and mentioned the idea of partnering on their SDGs, originally adopted in an official resolution on 25 September 2015. For two years, the world waited for the seismic changes the UN's bold, well-defined goals would inspire big business and government to implement. Sadly, the actionable programs and goals resulting from this monumental resolution were minimal.
Fortunately, Brian Brault, EO's Global Chairman, felt strongly that our 12,000+ EO members could make significant contributions to sustainability through social entrepreneurship, and by working together with the UN, we have the potential to propel its SDGs forward. I am grateful that Brian took the dynamic step of making the UN's SDGs a substantial EO Global Initiative; I believe it is truly one with the potential to alter EO's path of leadership through 2030―and beyond.
To heighten enthusiasm for this momentous commitment, we invited 25 EO chapter presidents from around the world to attend the 19 September press conference formalizing our compelling announcement. More than 50 members from Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Jordan and the USA attended.
Motivating en masse
EO members and staff are committed to our collective SDG vision, but it can be challenging to get buy-in from a group that is spread across the globe with many important issues vying for their attention. Now, we are working to build enthusiasm and solidify our next steps. We will conduct community-building within EO, encouraging chapters to host events promoting the specific SDGs they've committed to achieving and integrate the SDG Global Initiative into existing regional events. We'll meet with the UN to brainstorm ways to be impactful while starting larger conversations through editorial and social media channels about the significance of social entrepreneurship.
We'll ask that each of our 167 chapters worldwide adopt a specific SDG target to champion. For example, EO New York has chosen SDG No. 4, "Quality Education" as its specific area of improvement. We aim to educate EO members to learn and grow in order to serve the SDGs more significantly.
Take action: share this list
The UN has compiled a list of actions that every global citizen can take to contribute to a more sustainable future. They include simple choices such as taking your own bags when you go shopping, using refillable water bottles and coffee cups, shopping local and donating what you don't use. As your first step toward supporting the UN's SDGs, share the list on your social media channels―the more people who take action in their everyday lives to contribute to a sustainable future, the closer we are to making a difference worldwide.
The scale of our new agenda is vast, but it starts with each individual, each entrepreneur and each EO chapter. Start today. Be Significant. Boldly Go. Make a Mark!