Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) is an avid supporter of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)--17 goals and 169 targets to eradicate poverty, reverse inequality and halt climate change by 2030. On June 25-26, 2019, EO presented a two-day International Entrepreneurial Summit at the United Nations (UN) focused on inspiring, educating and connecting business leaders to promote sustainable business practices, specifically around the following four UN SDGs:
- SDG 4--Quality Education
- SDG 5--Gender Equality
- SDG 6--Clean Water and Sanitation
- SDG 8--Decent Work and Economic Growth
More than 180 entrepreneurs convened to craft concrete, actionable takeaways to help transform our world. We asked EO members about the Summit. Here's what they shared:
How are entrepreneurs uniquely positioned to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals?
"Unlike multi-billion dollar public companies that may want to embrace the SDGs but are limited by internal politics and their primary corporate agenda--profitability, entrepreneurs are uniquely positioned to have the ability to implement company-wide measures that support the SDGs. Entrepreneurs have the heart for leaving a legacy, connecting to our businesses with purpose, and leading our organizations through inspiration rather than just the bottom line." ? Steve Distante, EO New York member and EO's ambassador to the UN
"Entrepreneurs have the ability to act quickly and implement changes not only in businesses but also in their communities. We have the capacity to inspire our teams, customers and suppliers to maximize overall impact and inspire significant change. I believe that as business owners we have a responsibility to raise awareness, lead by example and motivate people to take action." ? Franziska Iseli, EO Sydney member and Communications Chair
"Entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity--a responsibility--to drive change through our companies. We cannot say we support children's causes if our companies have minimal parental time-off policies that force parents to send half-sick kids back to school. We can't go to fundraisers and talk about the environment if we are buying plastic bottles in bulk for our offices. We have to start with ourselves and our companies. When done authentically, the return far exceeds any entrepreneur's wildest dreams. And employees will tell their friends, families and become evangelists for the change we are trying to drive." ? Alex Yastrebenetsky, EO Cincinnati
What do you consider the most notable aspect of the Summit?
"Attendees were passionate about making a positive impact and bringing back actionable ideas to implement in their businesses and EO chapters. The Summit reconfirmed for me that it is through conscious and social entrepreneurship that we can make the biggest impact. It wasn't a 'sit around and talk about making an impact' gathering, but rather a 'let's take action!' kind of energy." ? Franziska Iseli
"It was incredible to see so many people passionate about being a force for good. My think tank came up with the idea for a business-based gender equality certification program, and I was honored to read that Summit resolution from the UN podium. I've seen first-hand how gender equality is incredibly impactful in my company. There are so many things we cannot control, but there is one thing we can change and we should: Our own companies." ? Alex Yastrebenetsky
What were your overall takeaways?
"If we all do our part, it adds up to a big impact in the world. It's critical to take action to inspire others externally, too. A number of actions can be directly implemented by EO and will have an impact due to the organization's size and scale, but each of EO's 14,000+ members has employees, their employees have families, and we are all part of communities. By making others aware of the UN SDGs, we can magnify our impact by sharing goals and initiatives externally." ? Franziska Iseli
"The following is from Warren Rustand's closing keynote:
'Our world is asking us, you and me, as individual entrepreneurs, to do more, to do better, to be smarter, to use the knowledge and wisdom that we have to help individual lives change. I'm reminded of the old pastoral saying that as we walk out of here today, don't talk, just act. Don't say, just show. Don't promise, just prove. You and I have to lead by our very example what we want the world to be.'
"I find his message inspiring and life-changing." ? Alex Yastrebenetsky
What next steps will you take along this journey?
"We're working on how best to quantify how our actions as an organization will impact the SDGs. It's challenging to establish a way to measure that across all of the SDGs and all EO member companies. The logical way to measure progress is by counting human lives impacted by our actions. We're focused on coming up with a way to calculate that number so we can continually improve our results." ? Steve Distante
"In my businesses, I've appointed a sustainability ambassador who makes sure we implement best practices to minimize environmental impact at every turn. We have joined the 'Plastic-Free July' challenge with the aim to minimize plastics from our offices. My team has also designed a downloadable cheat-sheet about reducing plastic waste to share with customers to inspire them to join us in this important effort. One small step at a time!" ? Franziska Iseli
"I'm excited to be involved with the quantification team, building a system for making our impact measurable. A year from now I want to return to the second annual summit and share not only what we've been able to accomplish with gender equality certification, but how by implementing the certification in my company, and raising an already high standard even higher, we were able to drive change not just in our business, but in our communities. It's all about leading by example." ? Alex Yastrebenetsky
Will there be future Summits to tackle sustainable development challenges?
"Yes. We are just getting started! We have already begun reviewing this year's event and planning for next year. EO is committed to supporting the UN Sustainable Development Agenda, which goes through 2030. We project that our annual International Entrepreneurial Summit will grow bigger and bigger each year, with more EO members committed to making changes in their businesses that will have a world-changing impact." ? Steve Distante