Ethiopian entrepreneur Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu addressed the 2016 UN Global Compact Leaders Summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York last month, invited to speak in a session aimed at highlighting those global game-changers who have demonstrated their ability to change mindsets. The session challenged participants to think outside the box and understand what drives disruptive change. Bethlehem, who is the Founder and Executive Director of soleRebels, the award-winning eco shoe-brand based in Ethiopia, was one of more than 1,000 leaders from business, finance, civil society, labour, academia, the UN and Government that attended the two-day global gathering on 22 and 23 June.
The UN Global Compact Leaders Summit provided a dynamic stage to jump-start business action everywhere on the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At the Summit, delegates and organisers outlined the journey ahead to turn global goals into local business, with leaders jointly identifying opportunities for action and innovation around the SDGs. The UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, supports companies to do business responsibly by aligning their strategies and operations with ten principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption; and to take strategic actions to advance broader societal goals, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with an emphasis on collaboration and innovation.”
Bethlehem, who was born and raised in a low-income Addis Ababa neighborhood of Zenabwok/Total area, established SoleRebels in 2005 hoping to increase job opportunities in her community. Since then not only has SoleRebels created hundreds of local jobs, but it has since become an internationally recognized eco-fashion brand. Solerebels opened its first U.S. retail shop two years ago in San Jose, California.
In his remarks at the Summit, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon “stressed that achieving the aims of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development would require finding new ways of living that would end the suffering, discrimination and lack of opportunity for billions of people around the world,” reports the UN News Center. “As such, he called on all stakeholders – from world leaders and chief executives, to educators and philanthropists, and across all sectors and industries – to work together in broader and deeper partnerships.”