Journeys to Scale – An Evidence-Based Framework and Comparative Analysis of Eco-Inclusive SMEs

Cover Journeys to Scale
Ebert, Luis and Mirko Zürker 2021: Journeys to Scale. An Evidence-Based Framework and Comparative Analysis of Eco-Inclusive SMEs. Berlin: adelphi/SEED.

Eco-inclusive SMEs – enterprises who focus on providing socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable impacts – are important agents in the global confrontation against environmental degradation and for the inclusion of socioeconomically marginalised communities in global value chains. While these enterprises have received increasing attention from economic development actors, climate and environmentally focused organisations as well as business development supporters in recent years; eco-inclusive SMEs’ specific business journeys and characteristics remain only insufficiently investigated in previous research.

In this primary edition of a series of reports, we illuminate the black box of eco-inclusive entrepreneurship by providing readers with a first-of-its-kind comprehensive typology on eco-inclusive SMEs. Our contribution includes a categorisation of different types of eco-inclusive SMEs, as well as a comparative analysis of their characteristics and differences. The typology and analysis are informed by over 20 years of supporting more than 1,000 eco-inclusive entrepreneurs across Asia, Africa and the Americas, and enriched by 36 in-depth interviews we conducted with nine SEED Awards Winners or Finalists between June 2020 and June 2021.

This typology helps to reveal the complexity of eco-inclusive enterprises, and the corresponding diversity of their support needs. The insights gained through this report shall help support organisations understand how to better tailor their programmes to the specific needs of a particular eco-inclusive enterprise profile. Each of the four enterprise types are characterised by distinct features which are critical to leverage and support individual enterprise journeys. Furthermore, this typology serves as a guide for eco-inclusive enterprises providing lessons and insights into potential challenges and opportunities in their individual journeys to scale.