Rethinking 21st-Century Businesses: An Approach to Fourth Sector SMEs in Their Transition to a Sustainable Model Committed to SDGs

With barely ten years remaining to reach the goals included in the United Nations 2030 Agenda (UN2030A), there is still no agreed-upon universal criterion regarding how businesses can move firmly forward to achieve them. A significant number of laudable initiatives have emerged and been consolidated internationally, highlighting the need to change the outdated mainstream economic model based on continuous growth—whose maximum exponent is the macroeconòmic magnitude “Gross Domestic Product” (GDP)—to another sustainable model which considers the ecological “people and planet-centered” oriented limits, prioritizing individual wellbeing and social prosperity, in line with the UN2030A. Facing the prevalent resistance to change, some innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are consciously addressing the transition on their own, but not without di_culties. The purpose of this article was to fill the gap in the social sciences literatura by conducting in-depth interviews with Fourth Sector (4S) entrepreneurs, business leaders from purpose-driven companies, and academics, in order to approach and look into their perspective about the role that 4S SMEs are being called to execute to advance toward 2030. The two main contributions of this article are (1) 4S SMEs identify an urgent need to modify the current economic model with metrics aligned with UN2030A and (2) it is essential to assemble and build an “Engagement Ecosystem” through a systemic thinking approach to allow 4S SMEs to make real contributions to the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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