À propos de l'initiative SEED

SEED is a global partnership for action on sustainable development and the green economy.

Founded by UNEPUNDP and IUCN at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, SEED supports innovative small-scale and locally driven entrepreneurs around the globe who integrate social and environmental benefits into their business model from the outset.

The role of SMMEs in alleviating poverty

Globally, the small, micro and medium sized enterprise (SMME) sector generates substantial employment and economic output. These enterprises contribute significantly to economic development in several ways: converting innovative ideas into economic opportunities, initiating and revitalising social and productive networks, and increasing productivity. Research has shown that countries which have high start-up rates of such enterprises benefit from higher economic growth 1.

In both developed and developing countries, SMMEs, and in particular small and micro enterprises, account for the vast majority of enterprises.  For example, approximately 97% of enterprises in Mexico and Thailand fall into the small and micro category 2. Because developing countries are typically more focused on small-scale production, the share of overall employment by small and micro enterprises tends to be higher.  Studies in five African countries found that these small scale businesses generate nearly twice the level of employment of registered large scale enterprises and the public sector 3.

Entrepreneurship is now viewed more broadly as a road to economic development. Social and environmental start-ups therefore could contain some of the answers to sustainable development. The goal of SEED is to support the ability of such start-up entrepreneurs to scale up or replicate their activities. This furthers their contribution to their local economies and communities while promoting sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems and reducing poverty, marginalisation and exclusion.

The SEED approach

SEED works towards this goal through a multi-level approach:

  • at the grassroots level: SEED provides direct tailor-made capacity building and networking support to selected social and environmental entrepreneurs;
  • at regional institutional level: by working together with regional and national institutions, SEED increases local capacity and builds bridges between local, national and regional stakeholders;
  • at policy level: through empirical research SEED gathers insights on how innovative start-ups grow, which barriers they face, and their economic, social and environmental impact, and in turn provides insights for national and international policy makers  to create a more enabling framework for such entrepreneurs; 

Achim Steiner“The SEED Award winners are shining examples of what can be achieved with very little in terms of funds but an extraordinary amount by intelligent management, hard work and by shinning a fresh lens on persistent and emerging challenges. They demonstrate with their innovation that environmental challenges can be solved, and can be solved in a way that at the same time creates economic and social benefits.
We therefore must do all we can to allow creative ideas to emerge. Local entrepreneurs can play an enormous role in demonstrating how the social and green economy can work and so help to spur on a collective and global sense of responsibility for our planet.”

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

For more information, download the SEED Flyer below.


1. OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development). 2001. Entrepreneurship, Growth and Policy. Paris: OECD

2. Kantis, H., Angelli, P., & Koenig, V. M. (2004). Desarrollo emprendedor — America Latina y la experiencia internacional. Washington, DC: Inter-American Development Bank. Simmons, E. (2004). The role of microenterprise assistance in US development policy. Economic Perspectives, 9(1). United States Small Business Administration (2006). Statistics of US businesses and nonemployer statistics. Washington, DC: United States Small Business Administration.

3. Mead,D. C., & Liedholm, C. (1998). The dynamics of micro and small enterprises in developing countries. World Development, 26(1), 61–74.

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