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


(Jane Nelson) #81

Bianca's point about the influence that the UN has with national governments in terms of encouraging policy reform and helping to build public sector awareness and capabilities to enable business engagement in the SDGs is crucial. I think it also picks up on Mike's earlier comment about UN convening capability - this is not a case of the UN only convening cross-sector dialogues and issue-specific multi-stakeholder platforms, but also WITHIN national governments convening different government Ministers or ministries and helping them to develop both the necessary mindsets and skill sets to work more effectively with business and civil society on the SDGs. Neither companies nor NGOs can do this, but the Un can really help to work with national governments and build their capability for partnerships.

Bianca Shead said:

Completely agree with Jane. The private sector can most effectively deliver transformative change through its core business and that's where efforts should be focused.

The UN should use its influence in encouraging national governments to engage with the private sector - to help leverage the opportunities presented by their businesses and value chains. An example of this would be the role that the IFC has within the Water Resources Group which, in South Africa, is having a significant impact through the multi-stakeholder Strategic Water Partners Network.

Jane Nelson said:

To be effective and transformative in supporting the SDGs, business must play to its strengths. Its partners in the UN and elsewhere must understand and respect what these strengths are. This means focusing efforts on the activities and capabilities of the core business. As a basis, companies should operate responsibly – ensuring respect for human rights, and implementing strong ethical, environmental, social and governance standards everywhere they operate through effective policies, management systems, monitoring and reporting, and where needed grievance mechanisms. Beyond this, companies can make a substantial contribution to creating shared value for their business and their stakeholders by harnessing core business models, capabilities, technologies, products and services, and unleashing a new wave of innovation and creativity. It also means becoming more strategic in how philanthropic capital is deployed, aligning more closely to core business and leveraging competencies and assets beyond cash. Most important of these competencies are the technical, scientific, managerial, financial and professional skills of a company’s employees and donations of relevant research assets, products and services to relevant development partners. One interesting trend is the emergence of innovative hybrid models or blended finance models that combine either business and philanthropic resources and objectives and/or public and private resources and objectives

Another interesting trend is the growth in multi-stakeholder platforms that bring together a larger number of actors to achieve more systemic change through policy advocacy or strengthening broader ecosystems.


Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

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?


(ANA ANTEQUERA PARDO) #82

Exactly, this is the best way


(Paloma Duran) #83

Following all the comments, I would like to share some examples of our work with the private sector in the field:

In Guatemala for example, we started working with Fundacion Tigo, the philanthropy arm of a telecommunications provider of the same name. The project began as a philanthropic initiative to refurbish some schools. But few months later, we realized we could go further and we started working with Tigo’s engineers to set up a mobile system for monitoring nutrition. Now, with cell phones, health workers can monitor anemia, stunting and other nutritional deficiencies in remote communities at a very low cost.

In Mozambique, the finding of natural gas reserves and other mega-projects raised economic expectations among young people, but the energy industry has fallen short of job creation expectations. In a deeper analysis, the UN team realized that there is an enormous mismatch between the skills needed by big companies and local capacities. In 2015, we are initiating a new program to turn this situation around. In coordination with gas companies, we are training young women and men in the skills these companies need such as specialized plumbing. The program will also support local small businesses and their linkages with the multinational enterprises operating in their region.

In Honduras, the SDG Fund in partnership with UN Agencies and the private sector are working together to support the generation of income through the revitalization of the Lenca culture and the development of sustainable tourism micro-businesses in the area, led by youth and women through training, business articulation, tourism promotion and international investment in of the most culturally and naturally vibrant regions of the country


(Zahid Torres-Rahman) #84

Thank you all for joining this live chat! We’ll leave the discussion open, so please do feel free to continue adding your comments.

If you’d like to read more about this topic visit: http://www.sdgfund.org/business-and-un


(Paloma Duran) #85

Hi Barbara. I completely agree. To eradicate poverty and end hunger we should work both at the global, regional and local levels. This is what we are trying to do at the SDG-Fund. We have global partnerships including the one to produce this Report to generate global evidence, but at the same time we are very aware that the real change happens through local actions. In my opinion, this is part of the change. Turning a global agenda into a local one.

Barbara Ann Brown said:

Whether it is business, government institutions, or individuals, all need to work together. Yet when I talk to people at a Chamber of Commerce event, an academic conference or with friends, and talk about working to eliminate hunger and poverty in the developing world, people will say, "Well yes, we need to, but we have to help our own first." (America has hunger in ALL 3144 counties in America. Of all places, hunger should not exist in America.) So, I say we must work locally and globally simultaneously to end hunger and extreme poverty. We can not wait to end hunger in our own country; we have not done so yet. One of the easiest ways may be for Business to promote community service efforts for their employees. Plus it may have more results in the end. Of course business can contribute money, but peoples' expertise is probably even better.

Also, I found in my community capacity building work that when people work on a project to help others they wind up helping themselves and most times seek more training and education to achieve more.


(Sofía Martín Salamanca) #86

The third question is a really interesting discussion point. Fundación SERES believes the priority is clear spaces creation for SDGs. Many companies desire to include SDGs in their plnas, but they do not know how to do it. Fostering these spaces to communicate ongoing projects could be an efficient and smart way to achieve our goal.


(Gail M. Spence) #87

Businesses can effectively engage in the SDG by doing business well and keeping focus on the three factors that make business a good community member by 1) creating jobs and goods and services that the community needs and want 2) working with community to address social and economic issues that impact the quality of life for all of its members and 3) conducting business operations in a way that doesn't damage the environment.

The SDG are goals that are well understood and supported by those of us that work in international development. As more and more business participate in partnerships and learn and understand the value of international development work and its impact on businesses, businesses are becoming very interested in the SDG as they see and understand how achieving those goals benefit businesses.

I think the UN can most effectively engage with business by continuing to educate and share information with business in a way that they understand what is in it for them (i,e. SDG) and why they should care. This dialogue should be backed up with evidence based data to show the potential impact, consequences as well as opportunities if progress is made towards the SDGs. Business are very competent in assessing, evaluating, and measuring the benefits to them from any venture, engagement, or partnership they pursue. The U.N. and donors also need to be more competent in this areas to in their private sector engagement. More effective and sustainable long term partnerships with businesses are often around business interest rather than CSR or philanthropy.

The UN should continue to serve as a broker and convener in initiating and facilitating these partnerships. It should also create an agreed upon framework for the UN and businesses to work together on all of the SDGs by providing illustrative activities, programs, projects where businesses and UN organizations can work together. By increasing the UN institutional capacity and staff capacity to engage business effectively more sustainable partnerships can be developed. Some of the biggest challenges in engage businesses, is first being able to develop alliances within an institution so that everyone is on the same page in terms of focus, support, and understanding before engage business. If this isn't done it can be a deal breaker. Gathering and sharing best practices and lesson learned is important on both the UN and the business side, so a built in adaptive management and learning process is part of the engagement process.

One of the first and largest partnership with business that I helped operationalized for USAID in Angola mainly succeeded because of the political will on both sides, adaptive management (we both learned quickly, made adjustments and kept the ball rolling), and a having an understanding of the goal and vision we were expecting to achieve.


(Bianca Shead) #88

Priorities for 2016 - really get under the skin of business and how we're trying to address development issues in a way that delivers value for all partners. We're all grappling with similar issues but from different perspectives. The SDGs provide a useful starting point for working those through - let's do it together.


(Jane Nelson) #89

Totally agree with you Barbara Ann. One of the most important differences between the SDGs and the MDGs is that the SDGs are UNIVERSAL. They are just as relevant for us here in the United States as they are for Uganda! But, I don't think enough people are aware of that. Maybe we need the UN Foundation and/or others to support a campaign specifically for the SDGs in the United States! Also agree with your comment about the need for both local and global action - nothing will advance or be sustained without the local leadership and ownership of both resources and results.

Barbara Ann Brown said:

Whether it is business, government institutions, or individuals, all need to work together. Yet when I talk to people at a Chamber of Commerce event, an academic conference or with friends, and talk about working to eliminate hunger and poverty in the developing world, people will say, "Well yes, we need to, but we have to help our own first." (America has hunger in ALL 3144 counties in America. Of all places, hunger should not exist in America.) So, I say we must work locally and globally simultaneously to end hunger and extreme poverty (and to implement all the SDGs).. We can not wait to end hunger in our own country; we have not done so yet. One of the easiest ways may be for Business to promote community service efforts for their employees. Plus it may have more results in the end. Of course business can contribute money, but peoples' expertise is probably even better.

Also, I found in my community capacity building work that when people work on a project to help others they wind up helping themselves and most times seek more training and education to achieve more.


(Jeff Geipel) #90

Hi Paloma,

All sound like great initiatives. How do you go about selecting which kinds of programs to get involved with? Is it demand driven from the community? Host government? Personal passions within the company?


Paloma Duran said:

Following all the comments, I would like to share some examples of our work with the private sector in the field:

In Guatemala for example, we started working with Fundacion Tigo, the philanthropy arm of a telecommunications provider of the same name. The project began as a philanthropic initiative to refurbish some schools. But few months later, we realized we could go further and we started working with Tigo’s engineers to set up a mobile system for monitoring nutrition. Now, with cell phones, health workers can monitor anemia, stunting and other nutritional deficiencies in remote communities at a very low cost.

In Mozambique, the finding of natural gas reserves and other mega-projects raised economic expectations among young people, but the energy industry has fallen short of job creation expectations. In a deeper analysis, the UN team realized that there is an enormous mismatch between the skills needed by big companies and local capacities. In 2015, we are initiating a new program to turn this situation around. In coordination with gas companies, we are training young women and men in the skills these companies need such as specialized plumbing. The program will also support local small businesses and their linkages with the multinational enterprises operating in their region.

In Honduras, the SDG Fund in partnership with UN Agencies and the private sector are working together to support the generation of income through the revitalization of the Lenca culture and the development of sustainable tourism micro-businesses in the area, led by youth and women through training, business articulation, tourism promotion and international investment in of the most culturally and naturally vibrant regions of the country


(Bernard Luksich) #91

Perhaps the United Nations can view businesses as "vendors" to purchase solutions. So for example, "Clean water and Sanitation", the UN could purchase and deploy water treatment plants. This would also help the "Good Jobs and Economic Growth". Businesses generally make something and to make something they need people. The United Nations could act as a catalyst or a venture partner. The UN can see the problem, define what products are required, and then set up a market place to build what is needed.

Look at the "Innovation and Infrastructure" goal. It seems to point to lots of job creation and research. Again the UN can get the ball rolling in an area and then only need to work on pricing.


(Paloma Duran) #92

Thank you to all of you. It was a very engaging conversation. We really had a lot of good food for thought. We are just starting the implementation of the Agenda 2030, its only been 2 months so far. We have 15 years to make it happen. We can achieve this with all your support, insight and ideas.

Again, thanks to the companies from the SDG-Fund Private Sector Advisory Group: http://www.sdgfund.org/sdg-fund-private-sector-advisory-group, and Jane Nelson (Harvard Kennedy School) as well as Zahid, Graham and all the Business Fights Poverty team. Please keep sending your comments, we must keep this discussion alive.


(David Wilcox) #93

At the launch of the SDGs during UN Opening week ReachScale participated in a half dozen conferences and listened to 130 plus presentations.

One of the key obstacles in engaging the private sector is the lack of sustainable models that are testing or operating at scale. Not one presentation at UN Opening week talked about being able to deploy donations or capital sustainably.

You can not have sustainable development goals without sustainable models. These sustainable/scalable models are not typically found in governments, corporations or NGOs. So to build partnerships these organizations need to engage with the sectors that have these sustainable/scalable models.

Quote from David Wilcox's article:

In evaluating the over 100 presentations at these events, I was struck by the following:

  • Few presentations gave any indication of serious learning from the wins — and losses — during 20 years of MDG work. A delineation of the models that work (i.e. more sustainable and scalable) is missing.
  • In the absence of learning frameworks, presenters reiterate the same problems, now expanded to 17 goals and 169 targets. The result is a plea for more resources to support the new SDGs without any evidence that those resources will be employed more effectively.

The core request at these events was for more than four trillion dollars per year to implement the SDGs over 15 years. This leads to two questions:

  1. How can you call the goals replacing the MDGs sustainable if they lead with requests for resources that are not?
  2. At the beginning of the SDG process, what should the world’s government, corporate and NGO leaders focus on now to make the new global goals actually sustainable?

Where are the Sustainable/Scalable Models?

Social entrepreneurs have offered these five critical solutions to the problem of making the Sustainable Development Goals truly sustainable:

  1. Recognize that commitments to achieving the SDGs must avoid Einstein’s famous definition of insanity: Doing the same thing and expecting different results.
  2. Replace unsustainable practices with new models that leverage under-utilized resources and other sustainable approaches.
  3. Redeploy resources from the inadequacies of donor, foreign aid and impact investment processes and into new models and leadership that move significant resources from unsustainable approaches to sustainable ones.
  4. Reinvent how organizations request and deploy funding by moving to scale solutions that are more sustainable than those that failed to achieve most of the MDGs.
  5. Reassess all investments, models and approaches. The most sustainable solutions must be aggressively adopted across sector and country boundaries, no matter their origin or disruption.

Increasingly, leaders are being asked to challenge the status quo. These leaders — often disruptors — no longer target seed stage or individual impact investments. The most impactful leaders know that pilots do not lead to scaling or to sustainability.

Social entrepreneurs thrive at risk-taking and from learning rapidly about what doesn’t work. These are the sustainable, scale-oriented models and management teams that are best equipped to handle significant capital and to shift how these goals could actually be achieved — shifting from unsustainable and un-achieved to sustainable and achieved development goals.

How to Make the SDGs Truly Sustainable: Social Entrepreneurs as Critical Achievement Engines

http://www.sustainablebrands.com/news_and_views/business_models/dav...


(Alvany Maria dos Santos Santiago) #94

Hi, I am Alvany Santiago from the Federal University of São Francisco Valley, in Brazil. I teach Business Ethics and Corporate Responsability. We are researching on Corporate Sustainability.


(Julie Peachey) #95

Hi, This is Julie Peachey from Grameen Foundation. We are seeing a number of corporates that view poverty as a risk in their supply chains proactively mapping their supply chains and understanding and helping the poor households [i.e. smallholder famers]...not just to reduce their business risk but also to help alleviate poverty. One way this can be done is using a poverty measurement tool like the Progress out of Poverty Index. This tool is also listed in the SDG Compass as a tool for reporting out on some of the SDGs, like 1.1. Happy to discuss further how this tool can be used related to business and the SDGs.

Bianca Shead said:

Completely agree with Jane. The private sector can most effectively deliver transformative change through its core business and that's where efforts should be focused.

The UN should use its influence in encouraging national governments to engage with the private sector - to help leverage the opportunities presented by their businesses and value chains. An example of this would be the role that the IFC has within the Water Resources Group which, in South Africa, is having a significant impact through the multi-stakeholder Strategic Water Partners Network.

Jane Nelson said:

To be effective and transformative in supporting the SDGs, business must play to its strengths. Its partners in the UN and elsewhere must understand and respect what these strengths are. This means focusing efforts on the activities and capabilities of the core business. As a basis, companies should operate responsibly – ensuring respect for human rights, and implementing strong ethical, environmental, social and governance standards everywhere they operate through effective policies, management systems, monitoring and reporting, and where needed grievance mechanisms. Beyond this, companies can make a substantial contribution to creating shared value for their business and their stakeholders by harnessing core business models, capabilities, technologies, products and services, and unleashing a new wave of innovation and creativity. It also means becoming more strategic in how philanthropic capital is deployed, aligning more closely to core business and leveraging competencies and assets beyond cash. Most important of these competencies are the technical, scientific, managerial, financial and professional skills of a company’s employees and donations of relevant research assets, products and services to relevant development partners. One interesting trend is the emergence of innovative hybrid models or blended finance models that combine either business and philanthropic resources and objectives and/or public and private resources and objectives

Another interesting trend is the growth in multi-stakeholder platforms that bring together a larger number of actors to achieve more systemic change through policy advocacy or strengthening broader ecosystems.


Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

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?


(Paloma Duran) #96

Hi Jeff. Here you have a short overview about our programmes are designed and selected: http://www.sdgfund.org/selection-programmes. Something that is very important for us is engaging business from the very beginning in the design phase.



Jeff Geipel said:

Hi Paloma,

All sound like great initiatives. How do you go about selecting which kinds of programs to get involved with? Is it demand driven from the community? Host government? Personal passions within the company?


Paloma Duran said:

Following all the comments, I would like to share some examples of our work with the private sector in the field:

In Guatemala for example, we started working with Fundacion Tigo, the philanthropy arm of a telecommunications provider of the same name. The project began as a philanthropic initiative to refurbish some schools. But few months later, we realized we could go further and we started working with Tigo’s engineers to set up a mobile system for monitoring nutrition. Now, with cell phones, health workers can monitor anemia, stunting and other nutritional deficiencies in remote communities at a very low cost.

In Mozambique, the finding of natural gas reserves and other mega-projects raised economic expectations among young people, but the energy industry has fallen short of job creation expectations. In a deeper analysis, the UN team realized that there is an enormous mismatch between the skills needed by big companies and local capacities. In 2015, we are initiating a new program to turn this situation around. In coordination with gas companies, we are training young women and men in the skills these companies need such as specialized plumbing. The program will also support local small businesses and their linkages with the multinational enterprises operating in their region.

In Honduras, the SDG Fund in partnership with UN Agencies and the private sector are working together to support the generation of income through the revitalization of the Lenca culture and the development of sustainable tourism micro-businesses in the area, led by youth and women through training, business articulation, tourism promotion and international investment in of the most culturally and naturally vibrant regions of the country


(Giovanni Di Placido) #97

Thank you for this interesting and engaging conversation


(Jane Nelson) #98

Many thanks Paloma. Look forward to continuing to work with you and your team, and other great colleagues in UNDP, UN Global Compact and other parts of the UN system. It is really valuable for those of us outside the UN system to know there are professionals like all of you who understand both the development community as well as business community. Your bridge-building roles - and entrepreneurial roles - are crucial!

Thanks everyone for the conversation and look forward to continuing it offline - and above all, thanks to all the companies that are getting engaged and putting serious resources - people, investments, capabilities, and other assets to work on demonstrating that business has a leadership role to play in partnership with others, both in terms of acting responsibly and mitigating negative impacts and in terms of created shared value and opportunity.

Paloma Duran said:

Thank you to all of you. It was a very engaging conversation. We really had a lot of good food for thought. We are just starting the implementation of the Agenda 2030, its only been 2 months so far. We have 15 years to make it happen. We can achieve this with all your support, insight and ideas.

Again, thanks to the companies from the SDG-Fund Private Sector Advisory Group: http://www.sdgfund.org/sdg-fund-private-sector-advisory-group, and Jane Nelson (Harvard Kennedy School) as well as Zahid, Graham and all the Business Fights Poverty team. Please keep sending your comments, we must keep this discussion alive.


(Alvany Maria dos Santos Santiago) #99

Any innitiative in Brazil?


(Bernard Luksich) #100

That is very true about learning from failures. We don't see any post mortems on projects that fail to meet their goals. We don't do that in engineering. If a bridge collapses we study it to find out why. Then new standards are set to be sure that type of failure does not occur again.

Think of plane crashes. We study them in depth to determine what went wrong and how we can avoid them.

We would be so far along if the same actions were taken on these programs. Many times we see the same thinking and ideas that did not work years ago come up again. They are tried again with the same outcome.

Maybe the United Nations can create something similar to the National Transportation Safety Board. Outcomes could be cataloged and recorded. This would give us a knowledge base on which to improve our impacts.

In business we have the saying "fail fast, fail often" so you can quickly learn.



David Wilcox said:

At the launch of the SDGs during UN Opening week ReachScale participated in a half dozen conferences and listened to 130 plus presentations.

One of the key obstacles in engaging the private sector is the lack of sustainable models that are testing or operating at scale. Not one presentation at UN Opening week talked about being able to deploy donations or capital sustainably.

You can not have sustainable development goals without sustainable models. These sustainable/scalable models are not typically found in governments, corporations or NGOs. So to build partnerships these organizations need to engage with the sectors that have these sustainable/scalable models.

Quote from David Wilcox's article:

In evaluating the over 100 presentations at these events, I was struck by the following:

  • Few presentations gave any indication of serious learning from the wins — and losses — during 20 years of MDG work. A delineation of the models that work (i.e. more sustainable and scalable) is missing.
  • In the absence of learning frameworks, presenters reiterate the same problems, now expanded to 17 goals and 169 targets. The result is a plea for more resources to support the new SDGs without any evidence that those resources will be employed more effectively.

The core request at these events was for more than four trillion dollars per year to implement the SDGs over 15 years. This leads to two questions:

  1. How can you call the goals replacing the MDGs sustainable if they lead with requests for resources that are not?
  2. At the beginning of the SDG process, what should the world’s government, corporate and NGO leaders focus on now to make the new global goals actually sustainable?

Where are the Sustainable/Scalable Models?

Social entrepreneurs have offered these five critical solutions to the problem of making the Sustainable Development Goals truly sustainable:

  1. Recognize that commitments to achieving the SDGs must avoid Einstein’s famous definition of insanity: Doing the same thing and expecting different results.
  2. Replace unsustainable practices with new models that leverage under-utilized resources and other sustainable approaches.
  3. Redeploy resources from the inadequacies of donor, foreign aid and impact investment processes and into new models and leadership that move significant resources from unsustainable approaches to sustainable ones.
  4. Reinvent how organizations request and deploy funding by moving to scale solutions that are more sustainable than those that failed to achieve most of the MDGs.
  5. Reassess all investments, models and approaches. The most sustainable solutions must be aggressively adopted across sector and country boundaries, no matter their origin or disruption.

Increasingly, leaders are being asked to challenge the status quo. These leaders — often disruptors — no longer target seed stage or individual impact investments. The most impactful leaders know that pilots do not lead to scaling or to sustainability.

Social entrepreneurs thrive at risk-taking and from learning rapidly about what doesn’t work. These are the sustainable, scale-oriented models and management teams that are best equipped to handle significant capital and to shift how these goals could actually be achieved — shifting from unsustainable and un-achieved to sustainable and achieved development goals.

How to Make the SDGs Truly Sustainable: Social Entrepreneurs as Critical Achievement Engines

http://www.sustainablebrands.com/news_and_views/business_models/dav...