Midpoint of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: What role can businesses play in accelerating progress on the SDGs?

A live written discussion with a panel of experts explored the role businesses can play in accelerating progress on the SDGs, as we reach the midpoint of the 2030 agenda.


LIVE Panel

Thursday 20 July, 10am to 11am EST / 3pm to 4 pm GMT


This year is the midpoint of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Businesses play a critical role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda. They can do this by adopting sustainable practices, engaging in stakeholder dialogue, investing in sustainable development, promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns, and collaborating with other organizations. By taking these actions, businesses can contribute to a sustainable future and help accelerate progress towards the SDGs.

This discussion explored these issues and the implications for business action.



  • Abir Chowdhury, Sr. Manager - Development & Fundraising, Ashoka University
  • Alam Bains, Head Of Partnerships, MovingWorlds
  • Amber Kiani, Director of Organizational Research and Development XRSI - XR Safety Initiative
  • Bronwyn Williams, Global Lead - Partnership Management and Development, UNICEF
  • Chioma Izuwah, Business Fights Poverty Community Member
  • Flora von Michel, Business Fights Poverty Community Member
  • Haron Muturi, Junior Leader, Wake and Shine SHG, Tharaka Nithi, Kenya
  • Kelly Hawrylyshyn, The Head of Global Resource Mobilisation, Fairtrade International
  • James Sale, United for Global Mental Health, Health, Mental Health, and Governance advocate
  • Joanna Howarth, Business Development Lead, Open Supply Hub
  • JoĂŁo Maria Botelho, Researcher NOVA Business and Human Rights and Environment Research and Board Advisor, NOVA Green Lab
  • Margaret Wanjiku, Partnership Manager, The Youth Cafe
  • Martine Parry, Fairtrade
  • Oyin Olufayo, Global Youth Ambassador, Theirworld
  • Ruth Lyons, Deputy Team Leader, Sustainable Development and Finance Team, FCDO
  • Sherif Muçalla Researcher
  • Tolu Seun, Business Fights Poverty Community Member
  • Yaquta Fatehi, William Davidson Institute, University of Michigan

Moderator: Business Fights Poverty


  1. What role can businesses play in accelerating progress on the SDGs?
  2. What are the best examples of businesses supporting progress on the SDGs?
  3. How can we better work together to accelerate progress on the SDGs?


This is a text-based discussion which remains open, so please do continue to share your insights.

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Looking forward to tomorrow’s session bringing the experience from Fairtrade’s work with over 2500 businesses and 1940 producer organisations across global value chains seeking to advance the SDGs through fairer trading practivces. https://www.linkedin.com/in/kelly-hawrylyshyn-b2687861/?lipi=urn%3Ali%3Apage%3Ad_flagship3_feed%3BEvnEhKOJRjCus%2F%2FYKPfM0w%3D%3D


Hi everyone- Looking forward to engaging on these great questions! I work with purpose-led businesses to measure their impact. I also use the same data for continuous improvement of their business processes. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.


***Hello everyone, we are looking forward to this written discussion today, and welcome everyone to get involved too.

To join in simply login in through the top right hand corner - you might get a confirmation email in your inbox.

And then get typing your insights. Do feel free to introduce yourself :slight_smile: ***


Hi there :wave:, I’m Jo Howarth and I work with Open Supply Hub. Such a pleasure to be here today! Would love to connect with everyone here - you can find me over on LinkedIn :point_right: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joannafhowarth/**


Hi all – looking forward to the discussion!


Excited to join this important conversation today! My name is Bronwyn Williams. I’m the Global lead for partnership management and development at UNICEF. Essentially my team of partnership experts and I work closely with our key markets around the world to deliver, grow and renew strategic and high value partnerships with the private sector. Feel free to connect with me: http://linkedin.com/in/bronwyn-williams-b712808


***Welcome to the live portion of this online written discussion - our first question today is:

1 Like

At Fairtrade we are working with over 2,500 businesses committed to source from sustainably produced products that contribute to SDG12 and in turn to the realisation of many of the goals of Agenda 2030. These businesses, in paying a fair price for producers producing sustainably, enable local communities to achieve:
:white_check_mark:better incomes (SDG1),
:white_check_mark:advance gender equality (SDG5),
:white_check_mark:enjoy decent work (SDG8)
:white_check_mark:and build resilience to climate change (SDG13).
See: 10 ways Fairtrade helps advance the Sustainable Development Goals -


(A1) For Open Supply Hub, there are two key roles that businesses can play to accelerate progress on the SDGs.

:mega:The first is to be a stakeholder that is open and freely shares information (open data)
:handshake:The second is to engage in multi-stakeholder collaboration.

These are inextricably linked, with the first leading to the second organically happening.


While we at Fairtrade are pleased with the growing commitment from the business sector to sustainability, unfortunately there is still a large number of businesses that still prioritise profit over people and planet. :pensive:
The prevalence of child labour in the cocoa sector, gender based violence in the tea sector and workers’ rights violations in the garments sector requires greater actions to make businesses accountable for their impact throughout their supply chain, in particular their impact (direct and indirect) on:
:x: the violation of human rights
:x: the perpetuation of intergenerational poverty
:x: environmental degradation
:x: economic migration from rural agricultural communities…


(A2) To add some colour - at Open Supply Hub, we believe that opening things up is the foundational step we need, in order to drive progress against a whole heap of challenges we see in supply chains. Supply chains are linked to forced labour, low wages, harrassment and abuse, unsafe working conditions (SDG 8); gender-based violence, gender discrimination, lack of female leadership, unpaid care work (SDG 5); waste, over-consumption (SDG 12), environmental degradation, GHG emissions (SDGs 13, 14, 15) and so much more. Supply Chains cut across the SDGs, meaning businesses have a huge role to play in accelerating their progress. We know that when businesses are open with information, and share it freely and accessibly, it means that issues can be linked to the relevant stakeholders, solutions can be found, and rights can be remediated. We organically see, day after day, that collaboration happens when information is open and accessible. And with collaboration, comes action, progress, change.


(A3) In particular, we’re talking about opening up supply chain data. We’re an open data platform which shows name and address data (alongside some other data points) for facilities/sites where things are made in global supply chains - clothes, electronics, food, shoes, furniture, energy/utilities, cosmetics, cars, and so much more - and we assign a unique ID to that facility, to aid interoperability (and collaboration). We know that when businesses share information about where they’re making things, it doesn’t do all the scary things that once upon a time meant data was kept under lock and key - sales don’t drop, competitive edge isn’t lost, contracts aren’t cancelled. In fact, the complete opposite - good things happen. Other brands and retailers reach out to them and suggest collaborating on projects, brands are informed by researchers and civil society when something is going on in their production sites that harms individuals, communities, and the environment - this means they can remediate it and meet their due diligence requirements.


We are well into the decade of action, rapidly approaching the 2030 deadline to achieve the SDGs – and it is more apparent than ever that business play a crucial role. Their resources and expertise are urgently needed to find ways of addressing the world’s biggest challenges facing children and communities. The last goal, to support the acceleration of multi-sectoral partnerships, is meant to help achieve the other 16 goals – working with business is the only possible way to achieve the SDGs.

In our mind at UNICEF, there is no debate, we simply must work with the private sector, and we do so very successfully. Yet we could and should be doing more. I’m writing to you today from Europe, which is experiencing yet another summer of record high temperatures – we clearly need to turn a corner, and we can’t do this by working in silo, It’s more important than ever that we work together to find solutions.


Fairtrade has for long supported and expected Fairtrade certified organisations to take some due diligence measures, including risk assessments, policies, and remediation work. Now we are bringing fair due diligence to the core of our work.

  • Standards. We are currently strengthening the due diligence requirements for all Fairtrade certified organisations – traders and processors, plantations, farmer cooperatives and contract production settings.
  • Support. Fairtrade offers ongoing advice, training and programme-based support to farmers, workers, miners and management at plantations and factories. Our tools for this work include the Fairtrade Risk Map.
  • Funding. We channel funds to producers through Fairtrade Minimum Prices, Fairtrade Premium and programmes to strengthen producers’ position and due diligence measures.
  • Business services. Fairtrade can support each step of the corporate due diligence. In particular, we can support risk prevention and mitigation, and meaningful engagement between companies and affected people.

We are committed to aligning Fairtrade’s policies and processes with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP, 2011).

but so much more is needed to make the UNGP become “business as usual” :thinking:


(A4) For too long, I believe we’ve looked at different stakeholders in silos when thinking about how we achieve the SDGs, and for us, multi-stakeholder collaboration is key. So this means businesses working with civil society, working with unions, working with researchers, working with other businesses. They all carry a piece of the puzzle, and only when working together, can progress truly be made. Of course, data needs opening up from all stakeholders, but businesses hold the bulk of it and so have to spearhead this movement. We’ve got some huge brands and retailers being open and transparent about where they’re sourcing from - hundreds of brands/retailers, including Adidas, Aldi South, Amazon, Argos, ASOS, Barbour, Burberry, Clarks, John Lewis Partnership/Waitrose, Mango, Sainsbury’s, Target, Tesco, the list goes on and on…


Businesses must respond to consumers’ growing interest in purchasing sustainable products – wanting to know:
:question: where products are coming from
:question:and how were they produced

see: Consumer support for Fairtrade remains strong despite global cost of living crisis -
:boom: :see_no_evil: :hear_no_evil: :speak_no_evil:


(A5) :seedling: I’m not naive to how change happens - more than just information is of course needed. But we’ve seen over the past four years that data genuinely is the foundational step needed. There’s a great image a colleague painted for me - one of trees and grass and plants all thriving because they’re rooted in good, nutritious, healthy, well watered soil. Data is the soil. Only when data is clean, accessible, accurate, and abundant, can everything else thrive. Decisions are made based on data every minute of the day. Decisions that affect up to 450 million estimated individuals working in supply chains. Opening up that data has to be a key part of making progress against the SDGs.

  1. To accelerate progress on the SDGs, companies can first identify which 2 - 3 key SDGs they would like to focus on that are deeply tied to their mission, value chain, and business processes. Given that there are 17 goals and over 160 indicators, and the SDG language was written for governments, this may also mean that businesses need to spend some time understanding how the SDGs relate to their work. Businesses need to develop their SDG strategy and have clarity on key SDGs to develop an effective plan of action that successfully accelerates progress towards these global goals.

  2. Businesses can also make formal commitments to integrating these 2-3 key SDGs, which signal to their shareholders and stakeholders their intent and foster accountability. Such commitment then drives conscious decision-making, such as at the time of sourcing and manufacturing products (SDG 12), recruiting women into their value chain (SDG 5 and SDG 8), integrating environmental considerations into their investment decisions (SDG 7 and 13), etc. Such integration also includes measuring and reporting on key indicators related to the SDGs. What gets measured gets managed, as we have repeatedly heard!

  3. Another role that companies can play is the following: Often, government, private sector, NGO, and civil society organizations sector and community work in silos. Businesses can help bridge these divides through creative partnerships and collaborations (SGD 17).


Businesses have the resources to enable the realisation of the SDGs in the communities they are sourcing their products from – contributing to environmental management, protection of biodiversity and water sources (SDG15), creating decent jobs (SDG8) and enabling women’s economic empowerment (SDG5).