5 December 2016
Responsible Business Forum Discusses Private Sector Opportunities in SDGs
UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
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The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Global Initiatives hosted the Fifth Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development.

The Forum aimed to address a "sea change" in development funding by creating a new partnership for sustainable development.

The Forum was the first zero-waste, zero-emission conference at this scale.

24 November 2016: Participants at the Fifth Responsible Business Forum (RBF) on Sustainable Development highlighted opportunities for the private sector to support achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Forum aimed to address a “sea change in the nature of development funding” by creating a new partnership for sustainable development.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Global Initiatives hosted the Fifth RBF on Sustainable Development, which convened from 22-24 November 2016, in Singapore. Over 600 participants from business, government and civil society participated in the event.

In a statement to the Forum, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “Business is the change agent that will spur innovation, unleash low-carbon investments and power sustainable growth across the planet.” He highlighted the role of private companies in achieving the SDGs, saying that “doing business responsibly—in line with the universal principles advanced by the UN Global Compact (UNGC)—is the starting point for any company seeking to contribute to sustainability.”

Haoliang Xu, UNDP, said “the kind of change envisaged by the SDGs can only be achieved with the input of the private sector.” He elaborated, “We won’t fight global warming by reminding people to turn off the lights when they go out. But we will if businesses incorporate sustainable use of water and power in the processes of production.” He provided similar examples of how business can address SDG 2 (zero hunger) and SDG 5 (gender equality), and stressed that responsible business is also “good for the bottom line.”

Participants discussed opportunities for connecting business with governments to create a policy environment that enables the private sector to achieve its potential and contribute to achieving the SDGs. Mark Cliffe, ING, identified “technology and new consumer propositions, such as sharing economy models” as exciting opportunities to deliver on the SDGs.

ING Bank, Credit Suisse, FMO and other partners launched the Sustainable Finance Collective (SFC) Asia, which aims to accelerating funding for sustainability projects on sustainable energy, the circular economy and positive social impact in Asia by providing financing access. Gerrit Stoelinga, ING, explained, “We want to encourage businesses to become more sustainable and we hope to see applications for game-changing sustainability projects that will have a positive impact in Asia.”

On gender equality, UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Michelle Yeoh reported that gender inequality persists in schools, workplaces and governments, and urged businesses and governments in Asia-Pacific to adopt the UNDP’s Gender Equality Seal Programme and achieve the SDGs. UNDP has supported the development and implementation of the Gender Equality Seal Programme since 2010 in Latin America and the Caribbean, and plans to introduce it in Asia-Pacific to support progress towards SDG 5.

The Forum took place amid a changing development context for the Asia-Pacific region. According to UNDP, in the past decade, a wider range of sectors have been mobilized for development, including the private sector. Official development assistance (ODA) accounts for 0.7% of total financial flows in the region, while domestic public and private finance make up 89%, a trend that UNDP says is at least partly the result of an increase in the region’s number of middle-income countries (MICs), from 16 to 28 over the past decade.

The Forum was the first zero-waste, zero-emissions conference at this scale. RBF Singapore will be audited on its zero waste and emissions targets, and will publish a sustainability report based on the findings. [UNDP Press Release] [UN Secretary-General Statement] [Forum Press Release on Gender] [Forum Press Release on SFC Asia Launch] [Forum Website]

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