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?