How can Business and the UN Work Together Towards the Sustainable Development Goals?

As people from around the world start to focus on how to implement the Sustainable Development Goals–the new ambitious vision for ending poverty and protecting our planet– they are exploring new ways of engaging and partnering with each other to achieve greater scale and systemic impact. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which sets out the SDGs envisions a “revitalized global partnership for sustainable development”.


This discussion will bring together representatives from business, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDG-F), the CSR Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School and Business Fights Poverty to explore the following questions:

 

1. What is the business and development case for increased UN-business engagement?

 

2. How can business most effectively engage in the SDGs, and how can the UN most effectively engage with business?

 

3. What should the priorities for action be in 2016 to strengthen UN-business partnerships?

 

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Click here to download the Report "Business and the UN: Working Together Towards the Sustainable Development Goals".

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At a general level, there isn't necessarily a need to start something new - the UN could be very effective in helping to strengthen existing initiatives: the UN's key strengths lie in its convening power and influence. There are a lot of platforms and organisations where this convening power and influence could be used to accelerate progress and help profile those organisations which are already doing good work.

What do others think?

Agree with the points made by Titilola and Jeff - there is great opportunity to make a stronger alignment between the local content programs that many mining, energy, agribusiness and other companies are developing and the women's economic empowerment agenda. It would be good to hear how companies are integrated gender into their local content programs.

Jeff Geipel said:

Sounds like local content to me! Agree 100% with your idea.

Titilola Adisa said:

UN should set up training on how women economic empowerment could be streamlined into strategic planning of businesses as well business associations. Business associations should also be trained on how to effectively lobby, advocate and form alliance for a good business environment in their locations.

Hi everyone, Ana Antequera from Ebro Foods, S.A. an Spanish food company global leader of the rice sector and the second pasta manufacturer in the world. Environmentally and socially sustainable growth is at yhe heart of the company's business strategy. One of our main objectives is to implement sustainable agricultural standards from an environmental and social viewpoint

I agree on the convening aspect. There are so many criss-crossing initiatives going on, and the UN could be a major player to wrangle them to avoid duplication, identify gaps where new initiatives would help, and that sort of thing.

Bianca Shead said:

At a general level, there isn't necessarily a need to start something new - the UN could be very effective in helping to strengthen existing initiatives: the UN's key strengths lie in its convening power and influence. There are a lot of platforms and organisations where this convening power and influence could be used to accelerate progress and help profile those organisations which are already doing good work.

What do others think?

I think we are seeing more companies interested in the global goals - but there is variation around the world. Many seem to have an awareness of them, and the number of new partnerships and collaborations seems to be increasing steadily. More examples from companies will no doubt help raise awareness further.

Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

Great question Richard.  Have you seen any shift since you published the report?

Richard Hardyment said:

I'd be interested in what the panel think about the current level of awareness amongst businesses on the SDGs. Do enough companies know about the opportunity? When we published our own research on this last year (From My World to Our World: What the SDGs mean for business), we found many companies knew about them - but weren't clear what action they could take. Does the panel see that changing?  How can progress be made faster?

Hi Richard - I think the awareness is beginning to gather momentum beyond the core group of companies that are already pioneers in global development. The Clinton Global Initiative hosted a meeting recently with about 30 companies, and I think there is growing opportunity to host discussions around specific industry sectors, which your research and the KPMG Industry Matrix approach could help to facilitate. Also, outreach to companies at the country-level.

Richard Hardyment said:

I'd be interested in what the panel think about the current level of awareness amongst businesses on the SDGs. Do enough companies know about the opportunity? When we published our own research on this last year (From My World to Our World: What the SDGs mean for business), we found many companies knew about them - but weren't clear what action they could take. Does the panel see that changing?  How can progress be made faster?

I think a lot of companies "get it" on the need to empower women through their local hiring and spending. However, practical implementation is difficult for companies who don't know much about economic and social development. There is often a lot of "guessing" as to what would make a good supplier to employ women, that is not based on a thourough examination of jobs created, skills development, etc.

I think this is where NGOs can help a great deal.

Jane Nelson said:

Agree with the points made by Titilola and Jeff - there is great opportunity to make a stronger alignment between the local content programs that many mining, energy, agribusiness and other companies are developing and the women's economic empowerment agenda. It would be good to hear how companies are integrated gender into their local content programs.

Jeff Geipel said:

Sounds like local content to me! Agree 100% with your idea.

Titilola Adisa said:

UN should set up training on how women economic empowerment could be streamlined into strategic planning of businesses as well business associations. Business associations should also be trained on how to effectively lobby, advocate and form alliance for a good business environment in their locations.

Bianca,

I totally agree with you. The UN's capacity to bring different actors together can be leveraged with the strengths of the private sector in terms of technical innovation and knowledge of the local market communities.

This can make the implementation of UN-related and other public sector initiatives much more effective and have a greater impact.

Bianca Shead said:

At a general level, there isn't necessarily a need to start something new - the UN could be very effective in helping to strengthen existing initiatives: the UN's key strengths lie in its convening power and influence. There are a lot of platforms and organisations where this convening power and influence could be used to accelerate progress and help profile those organisations which are already doing good work.

What do others think?

I would agree that awareness is high but that action is still in the early stages. With 17 goals and 169 targets there is a lot to work out.  In the early stages, we mapped our sustainable development Shared Imperatives with the G... to see where the top level alignment was.

But we've subsequently been doing some really interesting work to understand - at a really granular level - how our core business can support and further the SDGs which we'll be publishing later this year.

Richard Hardyment said:

I'd be interested in what the panel think about the current level of awareness amongst businesses on the SDGs. Do enough companies know about the opportunity? When we published our own research on this last year (From My World to Our World: What the SDGs mean for business), we found many companies knew about them - but weren't clear what action they could take. Does the panel see that changing?  How can progress be made faster?

Hi All,

its my hypothesis that the value of the UN exercising its conveing power to broker partnerships and collaborations between others (biz, CSOs, govts) could far exceed the potential value generated by developing direct UN-Business engagements. What do you think?

Mike

Thanks for all the great comments so far! Let's move on to our second question:

Q2. How can business most effectively engage in the SDGs, and how can the UN most effectively engage with business?

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