The business of the achieving the new SDGs

July 29th, 2015

That the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been described as the ‘most inclusive process in the history of the UN’ seems worth celebrating…. even if a flip side is the daunting number of goals (17) and proposed targets. This inclusion has undoubtedly been a recognition that the scale and depth of the challenges needed extensive public, private and civil society engagement.  Unlike their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), this time round many businesses have been encouraged to have their say about what’s important and how they’ll contribute.

Market in Jamuna charNow that the talking is nearly done we’re seeing a shift from ‘what’ to ‘how’.  In a very interesting initiative, SDGCompass (UN Global Compact , WBCSD  and GRI) has produced a guide for companies on how they can realize these goals.

Focus is on big business

The guide primarily focuses on big business: supporting and guiding the world’s largest companies to respond to the SDGs and reporting their transparency in doing so. But it’s not just the Walmarts  who need attention.  There are millions of small and micro-enterprises who will play a vital role in delivery goods, services and opportunities in challenging environments. Will the SDG Compass Guide for Business resonate with them? Just a single reference to SMEs in a 30 page document suggests probably not, so we need to ask SDG Compass, how will they be engaged, can this initiative be expanded to include them?


They are currently consulting widely and for now I have made these four points as feedback:

  1. Just big business, global companies? Domestic companies, including medium, small, and micro businesses need to be involved in understanding their contribution to the SDGs at country/regional level. They and others (including governments and meso level actors) need to recognise the critical role they will play in delivering the goods, services and opportunities needed to achieve the goals.
  2. To achieve many of the SDGs, businesses will need to be involved in investing in those technologies and knowledge and skills that will have the most benefit for people in poverty, which may not necessarily match with the most benefit to them as a company. How can they be incentivised (more carrots than sticks?), what tools and reporting will help them and others understand their contribution? This will often mean taking longer-term business development viewpoints – building markets for the future, even if they have minimal ROI in the medium term. How can they report on this as a contribution to longer-term objectives to achieve the goals?
    More information on Technology Justice and SDGs
  3. No single actor will achieve much alone, as the Guide recognises in section 4 on partnerships. Tools and investment are needed for effective processes (ref 4.3 in the doc), such as multi-stakeholder platforms, that engage a broad spectrum of actors (which should include the smaller, marginalised players) and where their individual interests as actors are subsumed, regardless of their size/power, to address systemic challenges.
  4.  Businesses need tools to better understand these power-dynamics so they can be transparent about how these dynamics affect the functioning of the systems they engage in.

Have a read of the guide and why not give your feedback But hurry… the deadline is the end of July…I nearly missed it!

One response to “The business of the achieving the new SDGs”

  1. Cleopas Ndorere Says:

    The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises are key in achieving the SDG as they contribute the biggest percent of employment and assist in income distribution there by reducing income inequality and engendering inclusive growth.

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