Tatiana Bessarabova: The New Era of Inclusive Business Aimed at Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

By Tatiana Bessarabova, Business Call to Action Secretariat

The Business Call to Action (BCtA) held this year’s Sixth Annual Forum on September 24th in New York City in conjunction with the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly and the Sustainable Development Summit 2015. 

With community support from Business Fights Poverty, the event convened over 150 people from BCtA member companies, development and civil society partners, and bilateral donors to celebrate the new era of inclusive business aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  With 33 new member companies, the past year has seen record growth in BCtA commitments, integrating people at the base of the economic pyramid (BoP) throughout companies’ value chains.

In his opening address, Magdy Martínez-Solimán, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, thanked BCtA members, United Nations colleagues and other stakeholders for their continued support of this groundbreaking initiative. In this 70th anniversary year of the United Nations, the international community has achieved consensus on a historic new agenda for change.

A range of stakeholders came together to not only design the post-2015 agenda, but to establish a blueprint for transformational change. The resulting SDGs aim to address current bottlenecks to sustainable development with the broad participation of government, the private sector and civil society.

Despite this historic agenda, there is an enormous gap in resources to achieve the SDGs. In addition to official development assistance, a diversity of complementary financing sources will be necessary to realize these goals. Partnerships comprising the private and public sectors, academia and civil society will be critical. Public financing is still important, but post-2015, the majority of resources to finance this ambitious agenda will need to come from the private sector.

“Governments regulate how much highway is needed, can even draw the map, but at the end, somebody needs to build it. Our challenge is to ensure that as much of private finance flows as possible are aligned with and supports the Sustainable Development Goals”, Mr. Martínez-Solimán said.

Domestic companies: Delivering the SDGs while reaching scale

The breakfast session, Harnessing Domestic Inclusive Business for Social Impact, featured David Croft, Global Sustainable Development Director, of the multinational beverage producer Diageo as well as domestic business leaders Juan Sebastian Pardo Lanzetta, CEO of Colombian housing finance provider Credifamilia; Piyush Jaju, CEO and Founder of the India-based green energy enterprise ONergy; and Tafsir Awal, Director of Multimode Group & Lal Teer Seed Ltd, Bangladesh.

Moderated by Bhaskar Chakravorti, Executive Director of Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context and Council on Emerging Market Enterprises, this panel focused on scaling up inclusive businesses in line with the SDGs. Panelists shared domestic companies’ innovations for harnessing local knowledge and partnerships to meet the SDGs while achieving scale. As a multinational company, Mr. Croft shared Diageo’s experience implementing inclusive business initiatives flexibly within a range of environments worldwide. Both domestic and multinational business leaders stressed the importance of partnerships that benefit both parties, and the need to ensure that BoP communities’ voices are heard in business decision making.

Inclusive Business: Contributing to the New Development agenda

Sahba Sobhani, Officer in Charge of the Business Call to Action and Global Programme Advisor, Private Sector, of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, introduced keynote speaker Lise Kingo, Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact.

In this historic week of consensus with the SDGs, Ms. Kingo noted that: “With the new global goals, we have a lighthouse for global development in the world, and a lighthouse for business in the next 15 years. We have the global goals, but now the hard work starts, because we need to implement, together, the new global goals. And there’s no doubt that business has a crucial role to play, along with all the other global stakeholders”.

The Plenary Session, Inclusive Business as a Key Contributor to the New Development Agenda, convened Lena Ingelstam, Director of Partnerships and Innovations, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida); Luiz Ros, Manager for the Opportunities for the Majority Sector Office, Inter‐American Development Bank; Nicolas Chevrollier, Senior Programme Manager at the BoP Innovation Center; Nicole Voillat, Sustainability Director, Bata Shoe Company; Stefan Maard, Head of Sustainable Business Development, Novozymes; and Terri Bresenham, CEO and VP, Sustainable Healthcare Solutions, GE Healthcare.

Moderator Nik Sekhran, Director for Sustainable Development of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, moderated the session. Throughout this exciting dialogue, panel members provided insights into how their business have made real contributions to the SDG development agenda. They agreed that sustainability depends upon businesses making sure that everyone has a stake in the initiative’s success – and that all stakeholders receive a return on their investments. Partnering through venture incubators and one-stop shops such as the BCtA provides the private sector with meaningful insights and a systematic pathway to achieving the SDGs.  

Catalyzing Partnerships for Better Health

A breakout session co-organized with Accenture examined the partnerships needed to create positive healthcare outcomes at the BoP. Panelists Soraya Ramoul, Director, Access to Health, Novo Nordisk; Daniel Grossman, Senior Director, Global Health Innovation, Medtronic, Inc; Camilo Gonzalez Ruiz, Director of Access, Diabetes, Sanofi Colombia; and Takeo Hojo, General Manager, BoP Business Unit, Global Operations Division, Saraya joined moderator Natasha Sunderji, Global Health Lead at Accenture Development Partnerships in sharing their companies’ success stories and lessons in improving access to health care at the BoP.

 

The panelists emphasized that the type and quality of partnerships are essential to improving health outcomes. This requires building trust with government and civil-society partners, who may perceive private sector partnerships as one-sided and simply based on selling a product. One way of overcoming these misconceptions is to present the idea of “building value” together. While companies’ bottom line is important, partners should know that the business objectives of private and other partners overlap. And while all actors have a stake in improving outcomes along the continuum of health care, no single partner can do it alone.

 

Dr. Joseph Kibachio, Head of the Non-communicable Disease Department of Kenya’s Ministry of Health closed the session by asserting that governments’ biggest challenges are their historic focus on illness and a lack of access to innovations. However, governments are now beginning to realize the need for more holistic and innovative approaches, which require the participation of private industry. Businesses drives economic growth, but businesses also need to transform their models of approaching development. The SDGs are an important opportunity for businesses to work towards both business and development objectives. By investing across sectors, business can lead the fight against non-communicable diseases, which affect 60 percent of Kenyans.

Capturing Data to Measure Progress on the SDGs

With the launch of the ambitious SDG global development agenda, gathering data to measure progress in achieving these goals is critical. Marcos Neto, Director of UNDP’s Istanbul International Center for Private Sector in Development led a dynamic discussion involving Wolfgang Müller, CFO, Digital Divide Data; Eriko Ishikawa, Global Head of Inclusive Business at the International Finance Corporation – World Bank Group; Serge Kapto, Policy Specialist, Data for Development, UNDP; and Mitesh Thakkar, Founding Director, Arthify, which is implementing the BCtA Impact Measurement Services (BIMS).

 

With the SDGs’ historic alignment of core business interests with development goals, the new global agenda provides business opportunities that the MDGs never provided. Yet the complexity of the SDG framework also poses unprecedented challenges for measuring progress, determining gaps to be filled and ensuring accountability. Businesses and development practitioners need to demonstrate that inclusive business can be profitable while creating social impact.

 

The BCtA developed BIMS to support members in measuring their actions against the SDGs. This service helps inclusive business members conduct ongoing measurement of social impact along with financial and operational performance. BIMS provides technical expertise and technology tools to design and implement survey-based data collection from the field through employees, customers and other stakeholders.

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