17 January 2017: On the occasion of the 2017 World Economic Forum (WEF), private sector actors and WEF initiatives have released reports that consider the role of business in advancing the aims of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Also on the private sector’s role in delivering on the SDGs, over 80 companies called on the UK Prime Minister to work with business to achieve the SDGs.

The annual meeting of the WEF is convening in Davos, Switzerland, from 17-20 January 2017, with a focus on the theme, ‘Responsive and Responsible Leadership.’

The Business and Sustainable Development Commission released a report that identifies 60 sustainable and inclusive market “hotspots” in energy, cities, food and agriculture, and health and well-being. It predicts that these hotspots have the potential to grow two or three times faster than average gross domestic product (GDP) in the next ten or 15 years, generating at least US$12 trillion and creating 380 million jobs by 2030. The report, titled ‘Better Business, Better World,’ also suggests that embedding the SDGs into the strategies of private companies could create an additional US$8 trillion across the wider economy. To achieve these gains, the report underscores the importance of innovative financing from public and private sources, and a “new social contract” among business, government and society to build these markets. The report recommends that companies rebuild trust by creating decent jobs, reward workers fairly, pay a fair share of taxes and invest in the local community.

The WEF’s System Initiative on Economic Growth and Social Inclusion published a report that calls for a new growth and development agenda to support progress towards the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on climate change. The report, titled ‘The Inclusive Growth and Development Report 2017,’ explores how countries can use a diverse mix of policy incentives and institutional mechanisms to foster growth and inclusion. It proposes a policy framework to drive more inclusive growth, based on 15 areas of structural policy and institutional strength. The report also contains a database of 140 policy and institutional indicators that allow for comparison among these areas and across countries.

The WEF Inclusive Development Index ranks countries based on 12 indicators of economic opportunity, environmental and intergenerational sustainability, and inclusion.

The WEF report also presents an ‘Inclusive Development Index’ (IDI), which offers an alternative measure of national economic performance beyond gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. The IDI ranks countries based on 12 indicators that incorporate measures of economic opportunity, environmental and intergenerational sustainability, and inclusion. The International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO), Canada’s Finance Ministry, the McKinsey Global Institute and Microsoft contributed to the report.

UBS released a white paper that presents a blueprint for using private wealth to support the SDGs. The paper, titled ‘Mobilizing private wealth for public good,’ argues that private investment is most likely to contribute to positive SDG results when it is possible to either create a market or attach a market price to capital. Private capital is less likely to contribute to the SDGs where regulatory change is needed, or when the SDGs aim to provide a public good. Therefore, the paper suggests, private capital can play a critical role in achieving SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) and SDG 13 (climate action). The paper recommends: centralizing and publishing data on SDG funding gaps; standardizing investment terms and disclosures, similar to climate change disclosures; increasing information around SDG-related giving and investing opportunities; and mainstreaming SDG-related impact investments.

USB commits to offering “a diversified new range of SDG-related impact investments to help mainstream impact investing and its contribution to the SDGs.” USB also plans to: help launch an SDG-focused philanthropy and investment platform, called ‘Align 17’, with partners such as the Gates Foundation, the SDG Philanthropy Platform, PwC and TPG Growth; and leverage initiatives to identify and meet SDG needs.

In an open letter to the UK Prime Minister, over 80 companies have called on the Government to “demonstrate to business [its] commitment to deliver the SDGs in the UK; work with businesses to deliver the SDGs, creating a transparent reporting framework and clear benchmarks; [and] require all departments…to work with business and other stakeholders to develop an SDG delivery plan.” The companies assert that sustainable development in the UK is essential for long-term prosperity and well-being. They stress their readiness to take responsibility and work with the UK Government to ensure the SDGs are achieved in the UK and globally. The UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) coordinated the letter. [Business and Sustainable Development Commission Press Release] [Better Business, Better World] [Commission Report Website] [The Inclusive Growth and Development Report 2017] [UBS Press Release] [Letter to UK Prime Minister] [UKSSD Press Release] [WEF Annual Meeting]