A Resource for Travelers, Consumers, and Social Enterprises

Myanmar lags behind most other countries in its adoption of modern environmental practices, education, technologies, and business models. Corruption and cronyism in the public and private sectors limit the potential of communities and start-up eco-entrepreneurs to participate in the formal market economy as the fledgling democracy enters the globalized economy.

Our Contribution to Sustainable Business and Social Enterprise

We created the Myanmar Sustainable Business Directory to collect information about responsible businesses and institutions operating in Myanmar in one place and easily searchable. Our goal is to support social enterprises and ethical businesses by promoting a network and supply chain development to strengthen domestic capacity within Myanmar and connections with global partners.

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The goal of the Myanmar Sustainable Business Directory to establish community resource centers supported by online platforms and a network of regional and international experts and institutions that will:

  • Raise awareness of ethical and sustainable economic, environmental and social practices necessary for responsible development, at the community level.
  • Invest in human capital and education programs to develop local skilled human resources capacity to enable small-scale, innovative “green business” development, and encourage foreign investment and grant funding

Share educational resources, promote knowledge sharing, skills development, and technology adoption to communities, public institutions and businesses under a model that can be replicated in both urban and rural areas to scale across Myanmar and the wider ASEAN region.

Background & Significance

Myanmar is currently undergoing a historic transformation to democratic government following five decades of military rule. As a result, Myanmar lags behind most other countries in its adoption of modern sustainable environmental awareness, education, and technologies. Nearly all institutions, including non-profit associations, have become corrupted and/or lack the knowledge, tools, and capacity to address our current environmental challenges or cooperate with international partners.

Progression of economic value

The previous military government actively worked to weaken communication networks, social cohesion, private enterprise and independent community development capacity. Marginalized communities and independent actors and entrepreneurs have lost confidence in public institutions through insidious corruption and economic exploitation, limiting their ability to receive funding from international donors due to lack of formal institutional structure, accountability, and oversight. New institutions, business networks, and supply chains must be developed to support enterprises and activities that generate higher economic value through processing and services than the over-reliance on low-value commodity production typical of developing countries, illustrated in the figure at left.

Environmental Education and Conservation

The Myanmar Green Hub will be a champion of environmental education and conservation in the local community, acting as a training center to support local women, youth and marginalized entrepreneurs to improve their livelihoods and participate in the formal economy under challenging conditions. Our goal is to create model businesses, producer cooperatives, and community-based projects by supporting activities that facilitate knowledge and skills exchanges toward ethical sustainable development best practices.

Support This Project Several IT-related “hubs” already exist in Yangon and other major cities in Asia and internationally to incubate, educate, and support start-ups in the information technology space. Many of these also utilize a hybrid business model for sustainable funding of their operations. The Myanmar Green Hub will emulate and adapt successful models to the local context, focusing on low- and middle-income groups and practical, small-scale interventions to support viable, scalable projects to drive “green business” adoption and sustainable development in Myanmar and across the ASEAN region.

Key Stakeholders

Women, youth, and people with disabilities participate in inclusive education, training, and entrepreneurship programs in an inclusive local economy.

Commodity producers benefit from training in sustainable agricultural models, ecological processing methods, collective bargaining and resource sharing.

Skilled local craftspeople can participate in worker/supplier cooperatives, product development, environmental/business training and market access opportunities.

Rural communities can participate in market/supply chain development and access, sustainable agriculture, waste management and educational development programs.

Disadvantaged- and independent entrepreneurs can benefit from participation in a network of ethical businesses and institutions that promote sustainable economic growth and responsible business models.

“Green business” start-ups will benefit from microfinance, funding support, training, incubation and collaboration opportunities.

Responsible businesses and “impact investors” benefit from a developing ethical network of institutions, social businesses, and producer cooperatives that support sustainable local and international supply chains and respect responsible business practices and norms.

Methodology, Activities & Processes

SEEDS hybrid structure model

Our approach is to create a new, ethical, and transparent organisation employing a “hybrid social business model” comprised of a local non-profit association paired with a local social business to establish a network of local institutions and actors capable of spreading environmental education, employment, and entrepreneurship throughout the country to develop local capacity to cooperate effectively with other institutions both internationally and especially within the ASEAN region. This model will allow the sister organizations to fully comply with local laws and international best practices to take advantage of funding opportunities for activities available for non-profits as well as generate a sustainable funding stream through the commercial operations of the social business.

Our plan is to establish a Myanmar Sustainable Business Network with workshop, meeting and collaboration space providing residencies for founders, trainees, interns, organic farming students, and producer collectives. Outreach activities through local teams in Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and other cities will coordinate local environmental and sustainability actors from both the public and private sectors and support their efforts through web-based platforms, training events, and extension work in rural communities.

Our approach is to create a model operation that will share knowledge and technology with other local businesses and the community at large to deliver positive impacts on local communities through living-wage jobs and education in environmental sustainability. Our activities will emphasize and cultivate the appreciation for local culture and traditions by educating locals and visitors in how traditional practices can be integrated into the larger, globalized economy sustainably.

Textile crafts in Bagan

The economic and political situation in Myanmar creates a challenging environment for startup entrepreneurs, especially independent, ethical, and social enterprises. Our project team and developing advisory board have professional training and experience in ICT for development, organic agriculture, sustainability, environmental management and community-based tourism, as well as experience in small business operations. Positive environmental impacts in our host communities will be supported through technology adoption, microfinance, training in organic agriculture, renewable energy and natural building.

Specific activities supporting our goals:

  • We created the Myanmar Sustainable Business Directory to collect information about responsible businesses and institutions operating in Myanmar in one place and easily searchable.
  • Establishing sound, legally-compliant practices in accounting, human resources, environment, health, and safety
  • Identify and connect ethical, high-quality service providers, suppliers, employers, and buyers in the region
  • Provide business planning and marketing advice
  • Micro-startup funding to develop staff and resource capacity to achieve self-sufficiency
  • Education and knowledge-sharing workshops, curriculum development, and online learning platform
  • Engagement with international and regional experts in key development areas such as sustainable building, environmental education, organic agriculture, human rights, responsible supply chains, and social business
  • Association with large, well-known organization for stakeholders to mitigate unethical requests from officials, simplify/expedite permitting processes, and apply for funding opportunities

Outputs & Impact Measurement

  • Creation of a sustainability and environmental education network within Myanmar (measured in the number of activities, participating institutions, and trainees).
  • Creation of a web-based platform for coordination and knowledge sharing to exploit high mobile adoption rates (measured in the number of publications, participants and engagement activity).
  • Creation of environmental/sustainability education curriculum for educational institutions, governme§nt and the private sector to drive the adoption of current best practices (measured in the number of programs, educational events executed and number of participants).
  • Public and private sector engagement activities and workshops (measured in the number of sponsors, partners, programs, events executed and number of participants).
  • Social businesses incubated (measured in the number of applicants/participants, enterprises launched, products sold).
  • Job training and placement activities (measured in number of institutional participants, number of applicants, number of positions posted, number of placements brokered).
  • Funding support (measured in number of opportunities found, number of applications made, number and value of successful applications, number of stakeholder beneficiaries).
  • Product development (measured in products proposed, designed, prototyped, commercialized, and sold).
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