New initiative supports businesses to address social and gendered impacts of COVID-19

November 23, 2021 | 17:08
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The UN Development Program (UNDP), the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), and the Embassy of Canada to Vietnam launched a project yesterday (November 22) to enhance the resilience of social impact businesses and contribute to reducing the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable groups, especially women and girls.
New initiative supports businesses to address social and gendered impacts of COVID-19
The "Leveraging Vietnam’s Social Impact Business Ecosystem in Response to COVID-19" project was launched on November 22

The project “Leveraging Vietnam’s Social Impact Business Ecosystem in Response to COVID-19” (ISEE-COVID), will be implemented in three years with a total budget of C$3.1 million ($2.45 million), mainly funded by Global Affairs Canada and correspondent funds from the UNDP and the government of Vietnam.

Social impact businesses (SIBs) are organisations that have both business activities and a commitment to positively impacting society/environment as central tenets of their strategic operations. Balancing social/environmental aims with a commercial model allows them to sustainably solve social and environmental challenges.

Examples of SIBs are social enterprises, social impact startups, inclusive businesses, and cooperatives where most members are vulnerable people. The UNDP’s study in collaboration with the National Economic University and the University of Northampton shows that 99 per cent of SIBs employ female staff, while 74 per cent have people from marginalised groups in their workforce. A typical SIB is micro-sized in personnel and revenue and 41 per cent of SIBs’ leaders are female.

At the project’s launch, Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Tran Duy Dong said: “With the commitment to always be at the forefront of innovation and reform, and at the same time ensure effective social protection work to leave no one behind, the MPI has implemented many practical programmes and activities to support vulnerable groups, such as the 'For the community development’ programme, the ‘White Cane for the Blind in Vietnam’ initiative, and sponsored a number of vulnerable groups, including SIBs like KymViet, Vun Art, and Tam Ngoc Cooperative."

"The MPI highly appreciates the partnership and support from the government of Canada and the UNDP in launching the ‘Leveraging Vietnam’s Social Impact Business Ecosystem in Response to COVID-19’ project. It is expected that the project will contribute to improving the capacity of SIBs, thus helping vulnerable groups including women, people with disabilities, and ethnic minorities build capacity and strengthen coordination among intermediaries to support social impact businesses and strengthen the capacity of state agencies in policy formulation and implementation, thus creating favourable conditions for the development of SIBs,” added the deputy minister.

The project will apply an ecosystem approach to tackle the inter-connected and systemic challenges that SIBs face. It will improve the capacity of SIBs themselves; build the capacity of and coordination between SIB intermediaries, and strengthen government policy-making capacities to enable SIBs.

New initiative supports businesses to address social and gendered impacts of COVID-19
The project will be driven by the MPI, UNDP, and the Canadian Embassy in Vietnam

Canadian Ambassador Paul Deborah said in her opening remarks: “SIBs provide incredible value to vulnerable communities in Vietnam in response to COVID-19, as well as contribute to sustainable and inclusive economic development. In partnership with the UNDP Vietnam and the MPI, our shared ambition is to improve the effectiveness of SIBs, especially those led by women, as a means to address the social and gendered impacts of COVID-19 as well as strengthen the SIB regulatory environment in order to enhance their social and environmental contributions in the communities they serve.”

The project prioritises support to SIBs in four key industries heavily impacted by COVID-19, namely sustainable agriculture, sustainable tourism, education, and health. These are also areas with a largely female workforce and many SIBs offering innovative solutions dedicated to reducing poverty rates among women and girls.

The new project is expected to support 300 SIBs with seed funding and market access, thus creating potentially 9,000 jobs for vulnerable people. 90 SIBs will benefit from revenue increases and develop plans to cope with COVID-19 and future shocks. 105 SIBs will have business plans that integrate gender and/or environmental and climate change.

Meanwhile, at least four gender-responsive policies are expected to be developed or revised. An impact business network of at least 100 members would be established. The network would support an impact measurement and management system pilot for 5-10 SIBs.

UNDP resident representative Caitlin Wiesen highlighted the timeliness of the project in supporting vulnerable groups and businesses in overcoming the prolonged and damaging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. She emphasised the crucial role of the private sector in general, and the social impact businesses in particular, in recovering and building forward better.

“I strongly believe that the shared development vision, the commitment of innovation-enabling government, combined with the creativity and innovations of social impact business ecosystem stakeholders will strengthen the resilience and accelerate the development of SIBs in Vietnam,” she said. “This, in turn, is foundational to leaving no one behind and achieving the SDGs”.

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