6 August 2018
SDG Knowledge Weekly: Increasing the Coherence and Scale of Public and Private Contributions
story highlights

The Global Reporting Initiative and UN Global Compact have launched a guidance document on corporate reporting for the SDGs; edie and the UN Development Program authored shorts posts on business engagement.

The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies and Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment released documentation on governance for integrated solutions and policy coherence, respectively.

The German Development Institute and Brookings each published papers on multi-actor partnerships, development cooperation and development finance, including for infrastructure.

In the wake of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), a number of reports and articles have continued to surface on how governments can finance and implement the SDGs in collaboration with the private sector. These include engaging businesses to align their operations and investments with the SDGs as well as using tools to ensure good governance and policy coherence, both in-country and through development cooperation.

A high-level meeting on the theme, ‘Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,’ is scheduled for 24 September 2018, where UN Secretary-General António Guterres is expected to unveil a new private investment strategy. As outlined by Global Policy Watch, the meeting format will include three “Davos-style” panels with CEOs from the private sector, heads of state and technological innovators. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed highlighted, during a 27 July briefing on the meeting, that the world is seeing a “waning commitment” to international trade, climate, economic and financial cooperation, and that we need to not only step up engagement with the private sector, but also take advantage of financial and technological innovations to bridge gaps.

On private sector action, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and UN Global Compact (UNGC) have released a publication titled, ‘A Practical Guide,’ which addresses integrating the SDGs into corporate reporting. The publication follows two previous guidance documents for enhancing businesses’ engagement with the SDGs, and outlines a three-step process to define priority SDG targets, measure and analyze objectives, and “report, integrate and implement change,” while also considering data users’ needs. The publication, developed in collaboration with Shift and PwC, warns against selecting SDGs that are easiest to report on, and instead encourages companies to focus on what is most important—or material—to their business. A more detailed write-up on the SDG Knowledge Hub is forthcoming.

Also on business-SDG engagement, an edie article summarizes a webinar featuring experts from BT, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) and DNV GL. Held 26 July 2018, the discussion builds on recent reports that find that, although many businesses have made pledges on SDG uptake and implementation, few feature measurable targets related to—or that measure progress against—the Goals. Panelists recognized the need for transparency on businesses’ negative impacts and the importance of identifying them in order to tackle them first. They further noted that the SDGs present an opportunity to move beyond reactive or isolated sustainability actions, and that engaging external actors that are likely to apply pressure has become “business as usual” for them.

A blog on the UN Development Programme (UNDP) website describes how companies are beginning to move beyond a business-as-usual approach. The post describes a “fourth sector” of for-profit entities “whose main purpose is to solve social and environmental problems, but generate their income mainly through commercial activities.” The author, Heerad Sabeti, is CEO of the Fourth Sector Group, which was launched in collaboration with the World Economic Forum’s System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Economic Progress and UNDP, among other partners. Sabeti also highlights progress in South America, offering Natura as an example of a business that is contributing to “virtually every SDG in Brazil.”

On governance, the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) released a report titled, ‘Governance for Integrated Solutions to Sustainable Development and Climate Change: From linking issues to aligning interests.’ The report’s chapters focus primarily on the Asia-Pacific region, looking at the co-benefits of an integrated approach derived from the alignment of disparate agencies and other stakeholders. The study develops a conceptual model to illustrate which actors should be involved, and looks at horizontal, vertical and multi-stakeholder coordination in the transportation and solid waste management sectors, as well as across the water-energy-food nexus. The authors conclude that in some cases, more engagement is not needed, as the necessary relationships may already exist. However, they note the increasingly important trend of “governance beyond governments,” signaling a need for flexibility in engagement strategies. IGES also recently launched a web tool that enables users to visualize SDG targets’ interactions with others, to help assess synergies and trade-offs and inform decision-making in both the public and private sectors.

Patrick Curran, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, underscores the importance of policy coherence, called for in SDG target 17.14. Curran notes that countries’ development pathways—particularly in sub-Saharan Africa—are highly dependent on the water-energy-food nexus, noting that policies in these sectors are not currently “joined-up.” He emphasizes that reliance on donor support can sometimes undermine coherent policy, as aid has the potential to look at sectors or issues in isolation. To mitigate a siloed approach, Curran calls for the review and update of national development plans, conducted with the support of inter-ministerial and multi-stakeholder committees.

Breaking out of a siloed approach means building multi-actor partnerships (MAPs), as outlined in a German Development Institute (DIE) discussion paper titled, ‘Incentivizing and Regulating Multi-actor Partnerships and Private Sector Engagement in Development Cooperation.’ Authored by Dorothea Wehrmann, the paper describes challenges to engaging private sector actors in development cooperation towards long-term agendas such as the SDGs. Wehrmann looks at the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC) to examine how such networks and partnerships can enhance MAPs’ engagement and effectiveness. She finds that these arrangements must: 1) strengthen institutional oversight; 2) support case-specific incentivizing and regulating strategies; and 3) lend further credence to context-specificity, for example, in South-South cooperation. All types of engagement will be critical in the context of reduced UN funding, as highlighted by Devex.

A Brookings report on options for filling the financing void for the SDGs focuses on increasing foreign and domestic investment in low- and middle-income countries by increasing engagement with development finance institutions and MDBs.

On development finance more broadly, the Brookings Institution’s George Ingram and Robert A. Mosbacher, Jr. examine ways to raise the US$2.4 trillion needed annually in order to achieve the SDGs by 2030. They outline four options for filling the void, focusing primarily on the fourth: 1) eliminating trade barriers; 2) increasing official development assistance (ODA); 3) mobilizing domestic resources by creating an enabling environment for private investment; and 4) increasing foreign and domestic investment in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) by increasing engagement with development finance institutions (DFIs) and multilateral development banks (MDBs). They compare DFIs in the US, Europe and Asia to offer recommendations that can mobilize additional private capital.

A significant portion of the finance needed is for infrastructure, as discussed in a DIE paper looking primarily at the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and New Development Bank (NDB), also known as the BRICS Bank. The paper titled, ‘Mobilizing Capital for Sustainable Infrastructure: The cases of AIIB and NDB,’ reviews instruments to mobilize private capital, building in experiences of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and others to identify lessons for “low-cost” finance providers. Given the capital-intensive nature of infrastructure, the authors note the importance of these DFIs in the sector, especially in the context of long-term sustainable development, as the social and environmental impacts of infrastructure investments are “locked in” for the duration of the projects’ lifetimes. The paper notes a need to increase the attractiveness of more sustainable projects, including by boosting returns through blended finance, de-risking through co-finance or other guarantees, and through specialized instruments used by the EIB and International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Regardless of whether they focus on public or private sectors, the above papers cut across the 5 P’s of sustainable development: people, planet, prosperity, partnerships and peace. A blog post by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) highlights that, by articulating objectives in this manner, the SDGs “represent the basic requirements of human decency.” Recognizing the linkages between these principles and their work, the IMF piece identifies how their projects and initiatives map to each pillar.

Additional issues of the SDG Knowledge Weekly can be found here.

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