Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises

Sub-principle 2.B

Ensure sustainable development results by aligning core business and development interests


Why is it important?


The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets are ambitious and require a transformation of both public and private activities. This transformation means adopting new business models, bringing in new innovation/technology and doing business differently – more sustainably and more ethically. Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) have a crucial role to play in driving the long-term success of the SDGs at the local level and with local partners. Adapting business models to include transparent reporting on progress and performance and committing to sound gender, labour and environmental practices enables MSMEs to attract capital, build trust and their reputation, and scale their operations. It also attracts clients further along the supply chain who prioritise alignment with the SDGs. Having contractors, suppliers and producers that are transparent and clear on their own alignment to the SDGs helps build and maintain business-to-business relations, giving partnering MSMEs a competitive edge.

Self-reflection questions
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  • Is your core business ambition well aligned with the SDGs and the Paris Agreement? 
  • Do you carry out sustainability reporting to increase transparency to stakeholders, ensure better risk management, drive business development and optimise business processes?
  • Do you assess the environmental impact of your business activities and take relevant steps to mitigate it? 
  • Have you joined with business associations, co-operatives or other relevant local networks to identify and connect with partners supporting sustainable development? 

Actions to consider
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  • Ensure compatibility between core business activities and 2030 Agenda and global climate objectives when engaging in partnerships with governments and donors.
  • Ensure that your business operations that are part of broader development co-operation partnerships minimise negative impacts on people and the environment, and maximise development and business benefits where possible.
  • Through business associations, networks or co-operatives, raise awareness of compliance requirements across the private sector.
  • Make use of your entrepreneurial potential, local knowledge and ideas for business model innovations that integrate a business and development case.

Pitfalls to avoid
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  • Focus on short-term horizons when defining results and planning projects.
  • Ignore the impact of core business activities on reducing economic and gender inequalities, as well as other negative externalities, including on the environment.


The Okata Farm and Food Processing, founded by a woman entrepreneur, is a small enterprise in Ghana with 32 employees. The enterprise works with over 3 200 farmers, 80% of which are women, producing organic crops. Focusing not only on business profits, Okata has developed a socially and ecologically responsible business model. The company helps women farmers gain access to financial resources and provides training for them on organic farming and food fortification. In December 2017, Okata was selected as the second-best farm in Ghana in recognition of its contributions to improving food and nutrition security among low-income population groups in the communities it works with. 

SWaCH in Pune, India is a worker-owned co-operative which is linked to the trade union Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat. It has enabled more than 3 000 waste pickers (a majority of whom are women from socially disadvantaged groups) in the informal economy to improve their working conditions (e.g. improving occupational safety and health, helping them obtain waste pickers government ID cards), benefit from training and participate in democratic decision making.

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