The global quest to pivot ‘simple’ growth to ‘betterment’ growth is manifested by an ever-increasing bowl of ‘alphabet soup’. In a world of acronyms and an encroaching metaverse reality, these might feel like random letters. However, they represent the sectors, metrics, and opportunities to drive sustained social and environmental impact to address some of the world’s most pressing problems.
With our new business degrees, we hold the keys to advance CSR or “corporate social responsibility” to promote self-regulation and preservation of our society. At the same time, we must hold the businesses we enter accountable to frameworks like the B Impact Assessment. Produced by the B-Corporation Movement, this is described as “the most credible tool that companies can use to measure its impact on its workers, the community, the environment and its customers.”
These days, more companies have been called to action to evaluate and improve their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) practices and protocols in the wake of social unrest and a global pandemic. The B Impact Assessment ‘Management of DEI’ Library, for example, includes evidenced-based processes for how to incorporate inclusive practices across various types of businesses. Additionally, according to Market Business News, ESG or “Environmental Social and Governance” refers to these three key factors when measuring the sustainability and ethical impact of an investment in a business or company. Similarly, the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are “17 goals with 169 targets that all UN Member States have agreed to work towards achieving by the year 2030”.
There is both a moral and financial case for why you should integrate all of these into your MBA degrees to ultimately position yourself to use business as a force for good.
APPLYING THESE CONCEPTS TO SANITATION
My eyes were opened to these possibilities within the Impact Ecosystem when I was an undergraduate student at Georgia Tech. I learned that over 4 billion people in the world today do not have access to safely managed sanitation. This is a reality that disproportionately impacts the livelihoods, career advancements, and educational attainment of women and marginalized communities around the world. SDG 6.2 is an integral part of climate resilience and sustainability work. It specifically calls for “achieving access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and ending open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations by 2030”.
Learning about these inequities inspired me to found my sanitation enterprise and multipronged collective, Wish for WASH (W4W), which seeks to bring innovation to sanitation through culturally specific research, design, and education. For the past decade, I have driven revenue for my organizations via various water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), global health, and social inclusion projects across 10 countries within the Sanitation Economy. I now identify as a social impact designer and storyteller who seeks to combine design thinking, business acumen, and evidence-based science to build a more inclusive world #everybodypoops.
So, what is the Sanitation Economy?
Well, it’s a marketplace that presents the potential for “global economic growth and has the ability to transform future cities, communities and companies”. It’s the opportunity to transform a public cost into untapped business opportunities through three sub economies:
* The toilet economy (inclusive of toilet product and adjacent product innovations that are fit-for-purpose across countries and contexts)
* The circular sanitation economy (whereby human waste is transformed into generative resources like fertilizer or biofuel)
* The smart sanitation economy (through which sanitation-related maintenance and health data can be monitored to inform business and public health insights)
Historically, it has been the role of governments, NGOs, and nonprofits to lead WASH development globally. The perpetual limited pool of public resources to fund these capital-intensive developments merged with the COVID-19 pandemic to unmask the case for private sector leadership and entrepreneurship in WASH-related work.
LESSONS FROM BUSINESS SCHOOL
The Toilet Board Coalition supports the growing opportunities in this space and projects the Sanitation Economy market potential in 2030 will be $26B. Additionally, according to Bloomberg, “Global ESG assets may surpass $41 trillion by 2022 and $50 trillion by 2025, one-third of the projected total assets under management globally”. These funds have been increasingly earmarked to accelerate work to combat climate change and social unrest – both of which are connected to global grand challenges such as lack of water and sanitation.
Before business school, I was a sanitation entrepreneur and the former Toilet Accelerator Manager (the world’s only sanitation accelerator program). Here, I witnessed the seismic shift in capital allocation in favor of CRS, ESG and SDGs, particularly in this pandemic era.
My desire to make social enterprises and nonprofits more resilient was clear before starting my graduate degree. At Goizueta, I also discovered a passion to support for-profits explore the value of a triple bottom line approach to business. Embarking on my 1-year MBA journey at Goizueta Business School as a Business and Society Fellow, I gleaned methodologies, frameworks and opportunities to help businesses yield profits while also delivering positive returns for people and the planet.
Sanitation as a global sector exists to move waste away from people, allowing them to live safe, healthy, and dignified lives. Reservoirs of business opportunities within the Sanitation Economy exist that are yet to be unlocked for large and small businesses aligned with ESG funding. Nevertheless, the UN’s 2021 report states the “world is off track in reaching SDG6” in terms of health and societal metrics.
As I continue in my career trajectory in the Impact Economy, further equipped with my newly-minted MBA skillsets, I seek to also highlight some of the many possibilities within the sanitation sector, which is only one of the 169 SDG targets. For those who do not identify as an “impact” or “nonprofit” person, this one is for you: everyone has a role to play to advocate for and better build businesses to incorporate these metrics and mindsets to unlock positive business and societal outcomes that will ultimately benefit us all.
The Burton Bottom Line: Knowledge about and work within the CSR, ESG and SDG frameworks are modern business imperatives. They are table stakes – the price of admission – for doing business and living life in our physical world today.
What opportunities do you see to use your business degree to propel society?
Jasmine [she/her] is a designer, impact entrepreneur, global health practitioner, and 1Y MBA candidate at Goizueta Business School, who is using design thinking, business acumen, and evidence-based research to build a more inclusive world. With nearly a decade of leading Wish for WASH in addition to diverse global health, design, and social inclusion projects through her firm the Hybrid Hype , Jasmine is passionate about accelerating innovation in the Sanitation Economy and Impact Economy because #everybodypoops and #menstruationmatters.
Comments or questions about this article? Email us.