Enabling Environment for Sustainable Enterprises

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The EESE Team aims to improve the enabling environment for sustainable enterprises, by: 
  • Allowing stakeholders to identify the major constraints hampering business development
  • Fostering dialogue between workers, employers and governments to reach shared policy recommendations
  • Supporting the adoption of effective reforms
  • Unlocking entrepreneurial potential, boosting investment and generating economic growth, creating better jobs and reducing poverty
The EESE programme is the real world-application of the 2007 ILC Conclusions on the Promotion of Sustainable Enterprises, which underlines the importance of a conducive environment for SMEs and describes some basic conditions that create opportunities for sustainable enterprises. The work is also based on the 2015 ILC Report on SMEs and Decent and Productive Employment Creation which summarises global evidence with respect to creating an enabling environment for sustainable enterprises and facilitating enterprise formalization. 

What is an Enabling Environment

It is the combination of conditions that affect an enterprise's capacity to start up, grow, and create decent jobs, and are of political, economic, social, and environmental nature. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are often hit harder by an unconducive enabling environment. Improving it helps them to access new services to: perform better, reduce their cost of doing business, unlock investment opportunities, and create more decent and productive employment.

How EESE works

EESE designs and implements activities with the ultimate goal of creating more and better jobs in small and medium enterprises. Our theory of change shows how, by supporting tripartite partners in analyzing the enabling environment, developing action plans, designing and implementing reforms, EESE contributes to improving the enabling environment, thus making enterprises an engine to create more and better jobs. As part of its country-level work, EESE works with ILO constituents and local stakeholders to assess, based on constituents' demand, the enterprises' economic, political, social, and environmental context, and prioritize reforms. Based on the results of the assessment, the partners agree on action plans for reform.

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Knowledge generation and dissemination

To go beyond country-level enabling environment assessments, the EESE team also works to document and promote effective policy initiative to improve the Enabling Environment for Sustainable Enterprises, through: In 2019-2020, the EESE team has launched a series of progress reports to look back on the work done in specific countries. The studies document how the assessment was conducted, which stakeholders were involved, what recommendations and action plans were issued as a result of the assessment, and how these were taken up by local partners to lead to reforms and, ultimately, improved enabling environment, enterprise development and job creation.


The programme was implemented between 2012 and 2019, in partnership with the National Business Council of Honduras (COHEP). The progress report identifies 11 key areas of lessons learned: among the most salient lessons is the importance of strong and continuous commitment by the implementing organization. The successes achieved so far - particularly the reforms of business procedures and related laws adopted during the programme's first few years, and also the building of partnerships with other entities and government agencies - testify how COHEP's voice in the national dialogue on economic and social matters has been amplified thanks to the programme.

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EESE was implemented in Montenegro starting in 2013, in collaboration with the Montenegrin Employers’ federation. After the publication of the assessment report, the MEF produced a Business Advocacy Agenda and Strategy called “The Five Business Killers in Montenegro”, which summarized the EESE report and was used as a strategic tool for further communication and advocacy, as well as five policy papers on the five individual challenges (regulatory framework, access to finance, informality, corruption, skills mismatch). Seven years after the original EESE assessment, the progress report showed that, thanks to MEF’s advocacy efforts, several improvements were made in all five areas, and that the EESE programme extensively contributed to capacity building of ILO constituents in Montenegro in many areas, from human resources to improvements of work in particular areas, such as timely and systematic planning of activities, advocacy for its members etc.

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In Mozambique the EESE process was launched in 2018 as part of the project Moztrabalha. The assessment, which concluded and presented to the national stakeholders in 2019, indicated that there was space for improvement in all 17 conditions. In February 2019, the tripartite constituents gathered to develop specific action plans on three key conditions: access to finance, peace and political stability, and good governance. In March and April 2019, cyclones Idai and Kenneth made landfall in central and norther Mozambique, causing damages and losses, as well as severe disruption in business activity in the affected areas. As a follow-up to these events, the ILO supported its constituents in updating the three action plans, in view of favouring the emergence of more climate-resilient small and medium enterprises. Thanks to a contribution by UNDP Mozambique, and in collaboration with local financial institution GAPI, the ILO facilitated the delivery of business continuity training to several enterprises affected by the cyclones. The SMEs who successfully completed the training also received seed funding to implement improvements in their business models – which made them more resilient to future disasters, as well as the disruptions caused by COVID-19.

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Sierra Leone

In order to foster private sector development in Sierra Leone, the ILO has implemented three main main activities from 2017 to 2019. These are the realization of an EESE assessment, the implementation of the project "Increased employment creation and opportunities in Sierra Leone through entrepreneurship training, business development services and labour-intensive infrastructure development", and the support provided for the promotion of the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (MNE Declaration) since 2019. The progress report identifies some key factors that contributed to the success of the programme: political will and institutional commitment; sensitisation workshops as a valuable tool to provide stakeholders with a comprehensive overview of ILO instruments, tools, and services offer; tripartite plus collaboration and social dialogue; and simultaneous efforts from different ILO units.

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The ILO conducted the EESE programme in Zambia in 2012 in partnership with the Zambian Federation of Zambian Employers (ZFE), which resulted in reform action plans to overcome identified constraints in four priority conditions as follows: Enabling Legal and Regulatory Environment; Physical Infrastructure; Education, Training and Lifelong Learning; and Adequate Social Protection. The progress review has revealed that considerable progress was made on the action plans through the collaborative effort amongst the diverse stakeholders. Such collective effort is especially symbolized by the Zambia Private Sector Alliance (ZPSA), which was jointly established by the various private sector associations including ZFE and Zambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ZACCI). ZPSA enhanced public-private dialogue across multiple industries, enabling the private sector to participate in the reform discussions actively and strengthen their advocacy functions. The private sector's engagement stimulated the government's various reform measures and facilitated the progress in the EESE action plans.

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