Recovering better: Opportunities to jumpstart the economy through green recovery plans

Farmerline, Uganda (SEED Award Winner 2016)

The COVID-19 pandemic presents health and economic challenges, but it also offers opportunities to jumpstart economies through green recovery plans. The SEED programme is working towards this goal: by supporting eco-inclusive enterprises & cultivating collaboration amongst political stakeholders.


Every year the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) meets to advance the UN System’s agenda on sustainable development. This year, the United Nations Environment Programme together with SEED organized the side event “Recovering Better: Global opportunities for jumpstarting the real economy” during the HLPF 2020 in mid-July. It gave international leaders the opportunity to discuss post-pandemic recovery based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Furthermore, the event also featured stories from SEED-supported eco-inclusive enterprises working on grassroots green recovery from Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Leaders agree on a post-pandemic recovery committed to the SGDs, the Paris agreement, and with a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises

Leaders at the event agreed that the only way countries will recover from COVID-19 in a way that ensures prosperity for all and builds resilience is if the international community remains committed to the SDGs and the Paris climate change agreement. “The 2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement are our roadmaps for building back better,” said Joyce Msuya, Deputy Executive Director of UNEP. “They set the social floors and upper boundaries of the planet’s life support functions. But we must keep our focus on real economy actors, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).” Lewis Akenji, Executive Director of SEED, warned, however, that local actors are at risk of being overlooked in COVID-19 recovery. Governments, he said, must recognize the role SMEs have played in meeting social and environmental goals, providing jobs, and creating economic and gender equity. SMEs, he added, must be centred in policy and financial mechanisms and provided the resources they need to thrive.

Stephan Contius, Germany’s Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda at the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, emphasized his country’s faith that the SDGs are a “collective compass for the way out of this COVID-19 crisis” and that the priority now was to make sure the necessary capital is available. Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), added that for working people, the SDGs and Paris Agreement could be the foundation of a new social contract, one that departed from austerity and moved toward equity and resilience.

Eco-inclusive enterprises worldwide show their inspiring responses and vision for a green recovery in line with the SDGs

During the side event, SEED presented a video showing inspiring examples of post-pandemic recovery from eco-inclusive enterprises in line with the SDGs.

Frontiers Markets, an enterprise providing solar energy products to rural low-income families in India, partnered with ten companies to introduce hygiene solutions, local groceries and fintech and trained rural women to distribute sustainable products to last-mile communities. The goal is to provide rural households with essential services and provide financial security by supporting rural women entrepreneurs. Frontiers Markets works in line with SDG 5 on Gender Equality and SDG 7 on Affordable and Clean Energy.

Amazóniko is an enterprise using innovative technology to educate and ease the recycling process in Bogotá, Colombia. During the pandemic, they noticed that the reusable waste material demand was blocked, but at the same time, waste production increased due to delivery services. Their solution was to arrange for non-contact services, sanitation schedules and sensitization to reduce the contagion risk. This way, they made people more aware of their overall waste production. Their actions contribute to SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities, and SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production.

EcoPlastile, a Ugandan company working with youth and women to collect and process waste plastics to produce plastic timbers and other building hardware to replace wooden timbers and unsanitary dirt floors, had to close down at the beginning of the pandemic. However, when they saw the need for personal protective equipment, they returned to manufacture face masks and plastic face shields out of waste. They contribute to SDG 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth as well as SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production. Franc Kamugyisha, CEO & Founder of Ecoplastile states: “Moving forward, circular businesses are going to be very critical in attaining the UN Agenda 2030 because they put people, profit and the planet at the core of what they do. We all have a role to play in this.”

For more examples of eco-inclusive enterprises doing their part in recovering better from the pandemic, watch the video on the SEED website.

Global Opportunities for SDGs (GO4SDGs)

The event also served as an introduction to the Menu of Services of the Global Opportunities for SDGs (GO4SDGs) initiative – a set of real-world tools and services that governments, SMEs, youth networks, and schools and universities can use to sustainably jumpstart their economies and job creation.

GO4SDGs was launched in September 2019 to accelerate the shift to more inclusive green economies and sustainable production and consumption patterns, by facilitating regional dialogue and exchange among practitioners on best practices for replicating and upscaling.

About the side event

The side event Recovering Better was organized by UNEP and SEED with support from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety of Germany (BMU) and the Green Growth Knowledge Partnership (GGKP). A full recording of the event is available here.

About SEED

SEED is a global partnership for supporting sustainable development and the green economy worldwide. It was launched in 2002 within the framework of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Founding partners are the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme and the IUCN. Its current supporters are the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety and the Government of Flanders. Since 2006, adelphi has been supporting SEED as an implementing partner and has been responsible for carrying out multiple programme components. In 2013, adelphi took on the project sponsorship and carries out all activities within the SEED programme.

Find more information on the SEED website.

Contact: Linde Wolters