The world is facing unprecedented challenges caused by our current approach to consumption and production. In 2019 alone, 92 billion tonnes of materials were extracted and processed, contributing to almost half of the global CO2 emissions. As such, there is mounting pressure to shift toward a circular economy, whereby elimination of waste and safe use of natural resources are promoted.
Within this context, ‘ecopreneurs’ emerge at the forefront of the circular economy model. Ecopreneurs are entrepreneurs focused on creating and selling environmentally-friendly products and services using innovative approaches. In recent years, ecopreneurship has been gaining more traction, in line with the shift towards environmental consciousness among the general public. Through the GIMED project, funded by the European Union under the ENI CBC MED programme, new projects and startups are appearing in the Mediterranean, with fierce dedication to the protection of our planet acting as a powerful guiding light. Such projects range from those who offer eco-friendly and biodegradable products to those who work on organic farms, snail farms, waste reduction, and marine-litter recycling. All projects are designed in such a way that allows them to be replicated globally. Thus, their operations are not restricted to only one country or region.
As one of the project’s implementing partners, Leaders International realises and considers the worldwide enhanced focus on fostering the talent of green entrepreneurs; especially with the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030, which aims to assess and apply transformative actions to mitigate environmental impact. By providing entrepreneurs with capacity building, technical assistance, and access to new markets and credit, we aim at overcoming barriers to ecopreneurship. These barriers include lack of awareness on potential markets for green products, shared knowledge on ecological issues, and guidance and support to follow environmental standards. Without supporting the innovation endeavours of ecopreneurs, these barriers can in turn create many uncultivated and unsupported solutions to combat environmental problems in the Mediterranean basin.
Ultimately, it is clear that it has never been more important to foster and support the energy, talent, and drive of the generation that will be most affected by climate change through enabling them to build successful professions, organisations, and livelihoods around ecosystem restoration. Not only does this nurture entrepreneurial skills within youth, but it also allows them to give back to their community and simultaneously protect their environment.