Integrating the Private Sector with the Sustainable Development Goals

New York, 28 April 2017 – This month has seen a renewed focus on the private sector’s role in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

On April 5th, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) hosted a Global Forum on Development in Paris with the expressed purpose to “optimise the private sector’s role in advancing sustainable development”. The United Nations (UN) facilitated a one-day SDG Financing Lab at its headquarters in New York on April 18th; one aim of the Lab was to increase awareness of “the significant business opportunities provided by the SDGs”. Most recently, on April 20th, at the World Bank Group (WBG) Spring Meeting in Washington, DC, a session on Implementing The 2030 Agenda called on the WBG “to scale up its financing mobilisation efforts from both public and private sources”.

The common thread is a call-to-action for private enterprise to engage with the SDGs and for international organizations, like the UN, to provide support for that integration.

In a recent article, two members of the WBG- Mr. Mahmoud Mohieldin and Ms. Svetlana Klimenko- discussed the changing role of the private sector in the achievement of the SDGs.

“The private sector’s participation in the [development] process was often viewed through the lens of its contributions to economic growth, job creation, and tax revenue. That must now change, with the private sector taking on a broader, more integrated role in the development agenda.”

The authors pointed to SDG target 12.6, which encourages “companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information in their reporting cycle”.

Part of the Asian Development Bank’s Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI) in Solomon Islands: “Wives of the workers at the Guadalcanal Plains Palm Oil company taking part in a sewing course initiative in the outskirts of Honiara, Honiara, Solomon Islands.” (Asian Development Bank/Flickr)

Multiple guiding frameworks have emerged to assist private companies in their alignment with the SDGs. The SDG Compass is one such guide, offering tools and indicators for companies to measure and manage their contribution to achieving the SDGs.

Additionally, the SDG Philanthropy Platform has launched to “make data on philanthropic investments more accessible, to track progress, find partners, and tell stories about effective collaboration”. The platform offers a unique tool, called the SDG Indicator Wizard, which through a keyword input, about a company’s industry or sector, can identify the SDGs that they most closely align with.

The SDGs were developed to be universal in nature, evidenced by their formulation through a multi-stakeholder approach, with inputs from governments, civil society, the private sector, the UN system, and others. The goals are ambitious, but they represent a collective vision of the future of sustainable development; that vision requires engagement from all stakeholders and private enterprise will play an important role in its achievement.

Feature Photo: Asian Development Bank/Flickr
Article by Britt Martin
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