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The New Global MSMEs UN Name Day and the Importance of Global Sustainable MSMEs in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

Op-Ed by Michele Bongiovanni, CEO & Founder, HealRWorld

MSMEs Name Day Background—On May 11th, The International Council of Small Business (ICSB) and the United Nations (UN) will conduct a special convening at the Unite Nations to announce the first-ever global Micro, Medium and Small Businesses (MSMEs) Name Day.

Thanks to the efforts of the Mission of Argentina Republic and the ICSB who co-authored the resolution, 35 countries representing ALL REGIONS OF THE WORLD have co-sponsored the ICSB-UN MSMEs Name Day (with an expected 50+ total to join). This annual name day event will celebrate the critical role of MSMEs to the world’s sustainable development.

UN MSMEs Name Day will be celebrated one day after the UN charter was signed (June 26, 1945) on June 27, 2017 and hence forth. This momentous event can elevate the critical role that MSMEs play in the global development ecosystem creating more awareness and patronage of sustainable MSMEs.

Overview:

MSMEs are a crucial component of the world’s economies and particularly in developing nations. (see below from the 2010 IFC/World Bank Report). Business today is global…and we must take a global perspective when addressing these issues.

Sustainability Reporting on MSMEs

While ES&G data is available on the largest corporations by esteemed data providers like Bloomberg, MSCI, Thomson Reuters, CDP and others, there is little credible information on the sustainable (socially conscious) business practices of MSMEs. In order to drive change, it’s necessary to have information and standards on not only the top global 10K+ companies, but the full spectrum of global MSMEs.

Significant efforts around sustainability standards in the US are being developed and implemented for large corporates by the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and globally by the Global Reporting Initiative, as well as the Integrated Reporting Initiative …but standards for MSMEs are more elusive.

For this reason, HealRWorld has created a strategy to credibly quantify and categorize MSMEs dedicated to one or more facets of ES&G and drive awareness of the correlation of sustainable business and good business. We have aggregated certification data globally on MSMEs across all areas of sustainability. Many of these certification standards are required for a particular sector of business which is why aggregating this information is so important. Further, we have developed additional alternative means of sourcing, including advanced web-scraping solutions and other methods/sources.

Credit Strength of Sustainable MSMEs & Access to Capital

In order to prove that these private companies dedicated to People, Planet and Profit actually outperform their peers, we’ve partnered with Dun & Bradstreet, the leader in global business insights, to couple business credit information with our data. Together, our analysis has shown a high correlation of businesses in the HealRWorld Sustainable Database and credit strength. Internationally, we found that 3 times more HRW businesses were in the low-credit risk category versus the average D&B business.

SMEs need capital to survive, so it’s encouraging to see that the data shows a positive correlation between a commitment to global sustainability and better-than-average credit profiles. Our goal is to leverage these insights to drive greater access to capital and more reasonable financing rates to these sustainable MSMEs globally and further prove that “sustainable business is good business.”

There is an opportunity for large corporates and governments to also direct more of their spending where possible to these types of entities as well. From a government perspective, this includes legislative opportunities to do so at the Federal and local levels.

The False Story

There is a major “brand” issue, however, in the traditional investment space with both companies and investors. As discussed with Morgan Stanley’s Sustainable Investing Institute, the issue is a fallacious belief that one must sacrifice returns to invest in socially minded/sustainable companies, which is simply not true. Multiple studies conducted by Morgan Stanley and Oxford University successfully dispute this claim (see attachments.)

Women-Led Companies Lead the Way

Lastly, we have data to prove that women are driving sustainable business creation in the US...but we have a major issue with women-based companies getting access to capital when less than 2% get venture funding and less than 1% are getting foundation funding. Not only are they over-indexing on sustainable business creation, but women-owned businesses were the driver of job creation in the US over the last few years (see our attached article in the Journal of Banking and Finance.) Per the National Association of Women Business Owners, “the only bright spot in recent years with respect to privately held company job growth has been among women-owned firms. They have added an estimated 274,000 jobs since 2007. Among men-owned and equally owned firms, employment has declined over the past seven years.”

Seizing Opportunity and Managing Risk

We believe and are working on creating solutions that combine our data with others to provide not only an integrated solution for companies to manage business and related risk, but for them to also view the “innovation” potential within their supply chains highly correlated to these sustainable MSMEs. If we are to reach scale, these sustainable MSME business models must get funded not only by social impact investors, but also by main-stream investors who see the financial and societal benefits of sustainable business.

We have heard directly from the marketplace that companies are trying to commit to sustainability, but are really in the initial stages and crave best practices from others, knowledge and information to help them reach their sustainable business goals. We seek to bring together large corporations and MSMEs (for profit and non-profit), along with global thought leaders and certifiers of sustainability to create a platform for dialogue and sharing.

Verifiability

We see our own role as a data aggregator of verifiable data from credible global certifiers of sustainability globally leveraging existing workstreams. While there is great work going on by many global and regional certifiers in this space, that data is siloed and this is why our approach has been to harness and aggregate the information and create useful insights. Further, the broad adoption of many certification schemes by MSMEs is an issue in driving scalability due to Direct Costs and Limited Resources to comply. This is a REAL issue we must address in the marketplace if we are to validate claims across the spectrum of sustainability in this sector. But what does sustainable business really mean? It is values-based, conscious capitalism which is important to businesses and consumers alike. As the greatest wealth transfer in history is set to transition trillions of dollars (and shift buying power) to Millennials in coming years who support these values and demand the same from businesses, there is hope for greater proliferation of sustainable business.

Attachments:

  1. HRW/D&B Sustainable SME Credit Correlation Press Release
  2. “Journal of Sustainable Finance and Banking” Article
  3.  Morgan Stanley Investor Research
    1. https://www.morganstanley.com/ideas/business-case-for-sustainable-investing
    2. below
  4. Oxford University Research

Morgan Stanley Survey on Sustainable Investing Featured in USA Today

May 06, 2015


USA Today featured an infographic highlighting findings from a recent survey conducted by the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing. After polling more than 1,000 active individual investors, the survey results uncovered key themes in the area of sustainable investing including the power of millennials in driving demand and female investor support for sustainability.


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