Economic OpportunitiesThe United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015, intend to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. The 17 interrelated goals aim to work towards an economic model which is not only environmentally sustainable but also turns poverty, inequality and lack of financial access into new opportunities for businesses, especially in developing countries.

The Business and Sustainable Development Commission recently released a report on the role of business in working towards the SDGs and how the goals create economic opportunities in developing countries. According to this report, by seizing opportunities in high growth sectors (like food and agriculture, cities, energy and materials, and health and wellbeing), achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will create an estimated $12 trillion in economic growth. Over half of this growth will be in developing countries. The goals also offer an opportunity to create up to 340 million new jobs in developing countries by 2030.

To capture these opportunities, companies and entrepreneurs will have to use innovative and game-changing business models. One of these is the circular economy business model. A circular economy is an alternative to the traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which resources are kept in use for as long as possible by recovering and reusing spent materials and products. This model aligns to SDG12 – responsible consumption and production.

Another market that could benefit greatly from the circular economy business model and offer substantial growth opportunities in developing countries (an estimated $810 billion by 2030) is the automotive industry. While collection rates for vehicles at the end of their life in Europe and elsewhere in the industrialized world are generally very high, it is not an effective process. Most collected vehicles are recycled into their base materials, a process which is energy-intensive and results in loss of value.

Many developing countries, however, have developed robust car repair and refurbishing industries because they cannot afford new cars. Rather, these countries import used vehicles from industrialized countries. In Nigeria, for example, 95 percent of cars are second-hand.

Ghana is another such an example. In a neighborhood called Suame Magazine, an estimated 200,000 artisans take discarded western cars and use the parts to build easily repairable vehicles that are more suitable for African roads. Car parts are also used to build anything from fences and swings to water pumps and welding machines.

These are just some of the ways that illustrate that by rethinking the approach to consumption and production, the Sustainable Development Goals create economic opportunities in developing countries while also addressing the issues of poverty and environmental sustainability.

Helena Jacobs

Photo: Flickr