With the recent release of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the upcoming September 25-27 Summit, world entities are taking stock of the power that setting such goals can have in creating positive change in people’s lives. Coming on the heels of the success of the Millennium Development Goals, UN organizers are now focusing on how to engage business in global development.
Engaging business in global development has not always been easy. The Millennium Development Goals addressed this through the Millennium Development Fund, which connected more than nine million people involved in various national and international bodies, organizations and businesses.
Now through an initiative started by the Spanish government, there is the Sustainable Development Goals Fund, which will be led by Paloma Durán. The Fund is designed to connect UN agencies, governments, civil society and businesses in sustainable development programs. One purpose of the Sustainable Development Goals Fund is to create new means with which to include businesses into UN cooperation programs.
Durán said in an interview with the Guardian newspaper that businesses will need to be brought into the picture in order to reach sustainability in global development work.
“While working with the MDG Fund from 2007 to 2014, we realized that collaborations between UN agencies and national counterparts could be highly effective. But achieving sustainability – which combines economic growth, social progress and environmental protection – requires us to go the extra mile,” she said. “Only when businesses are part of development programs can we achieve this.”
Along these lines, the UN is embarking on several initiatives to bring businesses into the work of global development. These include the Partnerships Office, Business Call to Action and Global Compact. In addition, in the 18 countries where new programs will be enacted, private sector representatives will be consulted during the planning stages.
The UN is also creating an advisory council to develop public-private alliances. The council will include leaders from various industries worldwide. “We want them to help us build a road map for how public-private alliances can provide large-scale solutions for achieving the new SDGs,” said Durán.
One of the goals of this public-private alliance is to create inclusive economic growth so that impoverished individuals in resource-rich countries are able to benefit. Through education and skills training programs for locals, those living in global poverty could begin to earn a better livelihood while contributing to their country’s economic growth.
Furthermore, by having a public-private alliance between the UN and private corporations, more transparency can be achieved regarding business supply and labor chains. Through more transparency and consequent regulation, issues such as human trafficking, modern slavery and child labor can be addressed.
Ultimately, Durán said that real solutions to achieving the SDGs will require innovation, much of which can come from the private sector. “Each community needs people who can provide efficient solutions to social and environmental challenges,” she said. “Businesses are well-positioned to deploy these innovative responses.”
But Peter Bakker, head of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), told Reuters that even though corporations helped shape the SDGs, many have not developed plans for how to participate in achieving them.
To coincide with the UN Summit, the WBCSD will issue a guide to help companies determine which goals apply to them, where they could have an impact and how to measure progress.
If businesses are successful in participating in global development, inclusive economic growth and greater transparency in labor and supply chains will be powerful contributions towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
– Priscilla McCelvey