OECD and GIZ Workshop on green skills development during 16th International Business Forum
Istanbul, Turkey, 24th October 2013
“Our business is profitable because it is inclusive” was how Javier Flores, green and inclusive entrepreneur from Peru, framed his success when he described the benefits of integrating social and ecological aspects in his business’ bottom line. It was one of many statements about opportunities for businesses to go green and inclusive during the 16th International Business Forum (IBF) that took place last week in Istanbul.
Over 250 entrepreneurs, investors, CEOs, policymakers, NGO representatives and sustainable development experts from more than 70 countries gathered for two days to discuss this year’s IBF theme: Green and Inclusive Business – Exploring and Developing Markets for Sustainable Growth. Integrating environmental and social goals into a sustainable business model was the overarching theme for the many workshops and plenaries of the conference.
But where there is light, there is shadow as well: Many green and inclusive business face serious challenges in scaling up their business models, despite being profitable. Lack of access to finance, insufficient skills development, and inappropriate regulatory frameworks are just a few examples of barriers for green and inclusive business to grow.
Particularly the question of how to improve skills development in and for green inclusive business attracted high attention. Key results from the OECD study “Skills Development by Green and Inclusive SMEs in India: Entrepreneurs Approaches” (Forthcoming) that were presented by Cristina Martinez Fernandez, Senior Policy Analyst and Manager of the ‘Employment and Skills Strategies in South East Asia (ESSSA) Initiative’ at OECD, evoked intense discussions. Here are a few key outcomes of the discussion:
- Particularly in developing countries there often is a mismatch between the skills needed by green and inclusive SMEs and those developed within the public education systems. Companies often rely on informal skills development and own initiatives. Sometimes, informal training activities are therefore seen more effective than public ones. Strong collaboration between public and private sector is therefore needed to improve the reach of public education systems. Business associations and chambers can play a critical role in private-public partnership, chiefly at the local level.
- A result of this mismatch is an increase in young people with university degrees that strive for the few “white collar jobs” available, but that lack relevant practical skills that are needed in running green and inclusive SME. It was argued that changing the perception and appreciation of skilled green and inclusive jobs will increase the number of young people on these jobs.
- Companies that attended the workshop also reported that the relevance for skills formation only became clear to them at a very late stage. Not having engaged in skills development by themselves at an early stage threatened their business models. Therefore, they strongly advocated for more awareness raising with young enterprises on the role of skills development.
- Some participants mentioned that education seems to be becoming a commodity in itself that is ever more often paid for directly by SMEs. Some even perceive relevant education as being no longer part of the public responsibility and see a threat of education becoming not affordable anymore. It was therefore stressed that government should continue or even increase their key role in skills development. However, public skills development and training needs to be more flexible and responsive in order to adapt to the changing needs of the markets. Practical Skills should play a more important role rather than degrees.
Reports, presentations and background material are available on the website of the international business forum on www.ibf2013.net. Interested in learning more about skills development by green and inclusive SME? Join us in the inline discussion on Business Fights Poverty in the week of November 11 to November 15. More information soon available on the IBF website and www.businessfightspoverty.com.