2020 has been a sombre year. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused economic losses and has disrupted the lives and livelihoods of millions. Furthermore, it exposed gaps in our socio-economic order, underlining our vulnerability to future threats, of which the most significant is undoubtedly climate change and widespread environmental degradation. While we recover from COVID, it is necessary to ensure that we ‘Build Back Better’, and enhance the resilience of our economies and societies to future disruptions caused by environmental degradation and change. Mitigating and adapting to these future environmental risks is the need of the hour, if we are to ensure there is equitable and sustainable economic growth.
Crucial to this process is the recognition of the disproportionate impact of climate change on women. Their traditional roles as primary caregivers, as gatherers of fuel, water and food, and their prominence in sectors such as agriculture makes them particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate and environmental change. Indeed, Women account for almost 80% of those displaced by climate change. This is compounded by the fact that they are also traditionally resource and opportunity constrained, with minimal say in decision making, constricting their resilience and adaptive capacity to disruptions. In recognition of this, it is necessary that women must be made a greater part of the climate change dialogue, in order to ensure that interventions are comprehensive and inclusive.
One way to give women greater prominence in the fight against climate change and environmental degradation is to promote climate entrepreneurship by women. Entrepreneurship is the key to the fight against climate change; we need fresh ideas and new technologies to propel the climate agenda. Women can bring traditional knowledge bases and unique perspectives to the table. Their deep understanding of community needs make them a powerful catalyst for stimulating the growth of innovative climate and environment positive solutions that enhance resilience, and balance economic growth with environmental and social sustainability.
Yet, despite the established potential for women entrepreneurs to solve pressing environmental issues, there is a prominent lack of an enabling environment for such entrepreneurs in India. Indeed, as per a Google and Bain & Co. report, women owned only 20 percent of all business enterprises in India, and most are small scale or not adequately funded.
This is the result of a number of factors. For one, the fields of business, finance and STEM are traditionally male dominated, especially in the professional sphere. Thus women often lack the professional experience and network needed to start and grow entrepreneurial ventures. This is compounded by a lack of female mentors and entrepreneurial leaders, particularly in the climate and environment space who can act as role models and help guide the next generation of entrepreneurs. Furthermore, women struggle to raise financing and support for entrepreneurial ventures, reflected in the Her Story’s Women Entrepreneurship in India report 2019, that revealed that funding raised by all-female founding teams in India in 2018 was only 0.63 percent of the total $13 billion raised by entrepreneurs in the ecosystem.
It is clear then that there is an urgent need for platforms that can level the playing field for emerging woman climate entrepreneurs. It is with this objective that UNDP and ReNew Power have joined hands and are inviting others to launch an entrepreneurship development platform for woman climate entrepreneurs to provide them a gamut of support services. It will identify and back women entrepreneurs across the sustainability and climate value chain including energy access, efficiency, storage and digital solutions. The platform will support deserving woman “greenpreneurs” catalyse the energy transition by helping them form fruitful partnerships for expansion, help develop their business and leadership skills and make their ventures investible. ReNew Power will also assign mentors from its leadership team to share their experiences and groom the participants for entrepreneurial success
As we move into the ‘Decade of Action’ and increase our concerted efforts for mitigating the impacts of climate and environmental change, we must ensure that our women are recognized as key stakeholders and change-makers. They are a source of immense innovative and leadership capacity, and building an enabling environment for ‘Women Climate Entrepreneurs’ will ensure that India is able to unlock their immense potential. We strongly believe that this will be one of the biggest catalysts that will help us balance our economic ambitions as the fastest-growing trillion-dollar economy in the world with our need to meet the climate targets and sustainable development goals by 2030.