Franziska Iseli, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Sydney, is an author and serial entrepreneur. She's co-founder and CEO of Basic Bananas, which provides marketing mentoring for small businesses seeking to attract new customers and grow. She's also the founder of Oceanlovers, a business on a mission to inspire and mobilize the masses to save our oceans. Franziska attended EO's International Entrepreneurial Summit at the UN, bringing awareness to how entrepreneurs are uniquely positioned to impact the UN Sustainable Development Goals --which include climate action, life below water and life on land. We asked Franziska for her first-hand perspective on Australia's devastating bushfires. Here's what she shared:

The angst, the hopelessness, the fear Australia has felt since the bushfire season kicked off has been relentless.

More than 30 people, including three American firefighters, and millions of animals have been killed by the relentless inferno which has burned 16 million acres and 2,000 homes--and it's still midsummer, so the situation may even get worse.

Newspapers, websites and social media channels are flooded with confronting images--lone firefighters facing massive walls of flames, a woman running in her bra as she rescues a koala wrapped in her t-shirt, a small child navigating a boat with his family through the smoke haze to safety. These images capture not only a visual diary of the disaster but the helplessness we feel as a country.

Nothing I say here could do the magnitude of this disaster justice. There are so many different layers to this catastrophe; from the brave firefighters and volunteers working tirelessly around the clock, to people around the globe making generous donations, to the many who have lost everything, to Australia's flora and fauna being completely destroyed, to local heroes and communities coming together to hold each other up in the face of utter devastation.

Unity in the face of destruction

Despite the overwhelming sadness and fear for our future, the Australian people have achieved what perhaps their government never could. As a nation, we have banded together, leaning into our networks, strengths and entrepreneurial spirit to provide hope to the affected communities.

Those with social profiles are leveraging their networks to fundraise:

  • Celeste Barber, perhaps one of Australia's most recognizable faces, set a goal to raise $15,000 and surpassed it 100 times over, reaching more than $50 million in a matter of days. The funds are now being distributed to the Rural Fire Service.
  • Turia Pitt, an Australian hero who suffered severe burns when trapped by bushfires during an ultra-marathon in 2011, has leveraged her social presence to encourage Australians to #spendwiththem. This shines a light on local businesses by creating a platform for small businesses affected by the fires to promote themselves freely and start the process of rebuilding.

But it's not only a few "famous" folks with big profiles and even bigger networks who are making an impact.

Unsung heroes abound

There are countless unsung heroes. Nursing homes from around the world are busy knitting much-needed mittens for the kangaroos, wallabies and koalas injured by the flames. Children are standing on street corners selling baked goods to raise a few coins for the Rural Fire Service.

Yesterday, I got a message from an entrepreneurial friend in Mexico who is running fundraising events at his co-working spaces.

The outpour of support is nothing short of incredible. It's these small but significant stories that inspire not only hope for the individuals affected but hope for my country as a whole.

The critical takeaway here is that we all have the ability to contribute and take action in whichever creative ways we choose. And--most importantly--each of us can think and act in the best interest for our future and the future of our planet.

Natural disasters can be the impetus for great entrepreneurial ideas and solutions. Consider the devastating images from Australia as a call to action to galvanize positive action. While it can't change the outcome of the current tragedy unfolding in Australia, our collective actions can help prevent or minimize future disasters around the world.

5 Ways to take action

Here are five ways to support those in need right now and make a difference in the future:

  1. Spend your money where it is most needed.
  2. Choose Australian-made products.
  3. Elevate the issue of climate change in your organization.
  4. Galvanize your team around a fundraiser within the company or by using your company's products or services.
  5. Commit to sustainability at home and in business.

Make long-term changes that promote sustainable practices both at home and in your business. Simple things like printing less, bringing a "keep cup" to your local coffee shop, and reducing plastic waste are daily actions that become habits and add up over time. If we all care a little bit more, we can make a significant difference to our planet.

It's sad but true: This isn't the last time a disaster of scale and significance will strike Australia, nor the world. We need to take action now.

One question remains: Are we reaching a tipping point where we start taking sustainability more seriously--or will we go back to our old ways?

Published on: Jan 28, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.