Photo: Logan Abassi / UN Photo
By Jane Nelson, Director, CSR Initiative, Harvard Kennedy School, and Zahid Torres-Rahman, Founder and Director, Business Fights Poverty
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) map out a global vision for a better world. They set out ambitious goals and targets for people, prosperity, planet and peace. Getting there will require us to work together—no matter where we live or work, this is a universal call to action. Leaders in government, business and civil society—all of us must develop new ways of operating and co-operating, if we are to leverage the necessary financial, technical and managerial resources to achieve these goals.
And because the journey will be a complex one, we must become a community of learners as well as practitioners. That is why over the past 10 years, Business Fights Poverty and the CSR Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School have sought to reflect, analyze and codify practical knowledge that will guide how our different sectors can work better together.
A few days ago, we launched a new report at an event in New York to coincide with the UN General Assembly: “Business and the Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Success at Scale”. (You can download it here).
This new report is part of series of joint publications that explore the role business can play as an equal partner in international development. There is now a broadly-accepted view that business has a central role to play in achieving development outcomes. And there is a wealth of experience about what works, and also about what doesn’t. Despite progress, there is substantial untapped potential that is yet to be unleashed and this report focuses on how we can do that.
The milestone Addis Ababa Action Agenda calls for ‘unlocking the transformative potential of the private sector.’ So what does this really mean? What will it take? How can business achieve more systemic change and development impact at scale?
For us the answer can be found in a series of six building blocks—critical enabling conditions that must be in place to align business incentives and capabilities in favour of success at scale. This report identifies what these building blocks are, takes stock of the progress we are making in putting them in place, and explores what more needs to be done.
It is our firm view that these building blocks will unlock a future in which all companies can work to drive sustainable development, not only through flagship corporate social responsibility projects but more importantly through standard business operating procedures aligned with broader processes of systemic change and collective action that, together, generate impact at scale.
Given the ambition of the SDGs, and the essential role that business must play with others in achieving them we must take stock and reflect deeply on what it will take to get there, and we must do that together.
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