Representatives of governments, the business sector, UN agencies, international organizations, and civil society groups discussed the role that business will play in delivering the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, during the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Business Forum.
The event was organized by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), and the UN Global Compact in collaboration with the Global Business Alliance (GBA) for 2030.
19 July 2016: Representatives of governments, the business sector, UN agencies, international organizations, and civil society groups discussed the role that business will play in delivering the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, during the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Business Forum. The event was organized by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), and the UN Global Compact in collaboration with the Global Business Alliance (GBA) for 2030.
The SDG Business Forum: highlighted achievements and commitments undertaken by business during the first year of SDG implementation; explored the capacity of business to catalyze sustainable growth and development, from innovative approaches to financing to the business case for sustainability; and showcased partnerships. It took place on 19 July 2016 at the UN Headquarters in New York, US.
During the presentations from the business sector, Paul Mitchell, Microsoft, stressed the need to address the entire community ecosystem through business programmes. Balaji Ganapathy, Tata Consultancy Services, said income equality is essential for gender equality and underscored the importance of role models, mentors and sponsors for women. She brought to participants’ attention the importance of developing businesses’ intellectual, human, and technological capitals beyond the financial capital.
Adam Monroe, Novozymes, noted that governments can support the private sector by creating markets through market-based policies and explained the necessity for multiple equity-partners to take different levels of risks for de-risking. Princess Abze Dijigma, CEO ABZESOLAR, said incentives should be put in place for local small and medium enterprises (SMEs), including from the informal sector, because “when the informal sector suffers big companies are affected too.” Jack Moss, Executive Director Aquafed, stressed the need to establish “who does what” in the value chain. He listed four contexts that need to be taken into account in the water sector: the public administration, the industrial activities, the political context, and the consumers’ context.
Lea Rankinen, S Group, called for “putting consumers in the driver’s seat” in promoting circular economy. Nick Davies, Neighborly, observed a trend in companies to integrate corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting in the annual reporting and stressed that the two should no longer be separate. He added that CSR is dead and that the future is “creating shared value” (CSV), which is “the way in which all stakeholders win.”
Igor Runov, Under Secretary General, the International Road Transport Union, said revitalizing the silk road should be a global task, and that human mobility should not only be regarded as a human right, but also as an important opportunity for interconnectivity. Paul Holthus, CEO World Ocean Council, spoke about corporate oceans responsibility and indicated that the Council is launching an oceans investment platform, to bring investment in ocean-related challenges, as well as an oceans young professionals network.
Juan Gonzalez-Valero, Syngenta, noted that technology ignorance is a major hurdle in expanding sustainable agriculture and stressed the need for as much innovation with regards to business models as with regards to technology. Kevin Coon, Baker & McKenzie, underscored that business is not the panacea for driving SDGs implementation, but all partners have an essential role to play, such as governments putting in place the right policies and institutions for gender equality, universal health coverage, or stakeholders participation.
Rowan Douglas, Willis Group, said governments could support the business sector by encouraging all entities with regards to risk-disclosure. Gavin Wilson, IFC Asset Management Company (IFC), noted the importance to provide investors with risk mitigation mechanisms, as for IFC “the name of the game today is how to mitigate risk.” He further called for encouraging and rewarding those willing to go first in investing and setting up in new local economies.
Mark Malloch-Brown, Chair of the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, said the “prize” for the private sector that engages in SDG implementation is a much bigger global economy, increased by 10-30%, which represents a “quantum leap” that would make today’s poor tomorrow’s consumers and workers. Manuel Sager, Director General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, noted that the impact investment market is small but growing and the role of the public development actors should be to help partners improve the investment climate through improved economic frameworks and fighting against corruption.
Dante Disparte, Risk Cooperative, stressed the need to look at sustainable development as an “asset class” into which investors are willing to put “big, long term money.” He explained that the “uncomfortable intersection where profit meets purpose” happened because companies can no longer have the luxury of a firewall between stakeholders.
Lisa Bersales, Co-Chair of the Inter-Agency Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs), noted that the first community to provide data for the SDGs should be the national statistics systems but, as they cannot provide all the data needed for the SDGs, the contribution of other sources such as the business sector will be needed. Annika Lindblom, the National Commission on Sustainable Development of Finland, said Finland will invite business organizations to work with the government on data collection for SDG indicators. She further identified a few benefits for businesses that are engaging in SDGs implementation: better resource efficiency; social influence; market benefits; new clients; motivated staff; and access to new networks. Noted SMEs’ limited reporting capacity, Claudio Volonte, IFC, underlined the need for the statistical community to ensure that indicators are simple and relevant to SMEs’ business. He further called for harmonizing reporting requests among donors.
In the ensuing discussion, participants addressed, inter alia: incentives that governments should provide for the private sector’s involvement in SDGs implementation; the right dose of government intervention, between a too regulated policy climate that scares investors and a non-regulated one that does not provide incentives for sustainable development; sectorial allocation of funding; ways to reach scale; the need to keep people at the heart of SDGs’ implementation; the need for business to lead the way on simple and transparent ways of communicating impact; and the potential of business to help the international community leapfrog beyond the “status-quo modus operandi.” [Website of the SDG Business Forum][IISD RS Sources]