Amsterdam, Netherlands — We all know that the UN Sustainable Development Goals are ambitious and will take huge collaborative and international effort to achieve. Government action alone is not enough. So how can the private sector actively contribute - and what can be done to ramp up the participation of businesses around the world?
Finding answers to these questions is at the heart of a new initiative, launched this month by GRI, the sustainability reporting standard setter, and global power company Enel. Titled 'Driving corporate action towards accomplishing the SDGs', it will seek solutions by engaging businesses, policy makers and NGOs.
The project links two of the requirements that apply to all member states under the SDGs. These are to encourage companies to adopt sustainable practices and report sustainability information (set out within goal 12); and strengthening global partnerships between the private sector, government and civil society (goal 17).
From the inception of the SDGs, GRI has championed the participation of the private sector in measuring and achieving progress. In fact, we believe this is a crucial contributing factor to the overall success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
That's because, through engaging in reporting on the SDGs and embedding this within corporate disclosures, businesses are encouraged to adopt more sustainable ways of working. Yet we need to encourage more companies to get on board. While there are good examples from around the world, a complete picture is lacking. So, more needs to be done to strengthen collaboration and translate these partnerships into measurable impact.
Agreement on the pressing need to address these issues led to the partnership between GRI and Enel, with phase one now underway. At the center of this work are online collaboration forums where anyone can sign up to participate, free of charge. Each of these 90-minute sessions will be led by a diverse panel of experts, convened by GRI and Enel.
The forums will get under the skin of what is already happening to support business engagement in the SDGs - and where more help is needed. Taking place at times that accommodate those in different time zones, we are seeking widespread and international participation.
The online sessions will take place in October and November and are hosted by insights and strategy consultancy GlobeScan. The findings will feed into a series of regional events in 2020.
Participants in the forums will be asked to share their perspectives on the current state of affairs and help develop a vision on how companies and governments should work together.
Questions to be addressed will include:
- How has reporting by the private sector enhanced the implementation of the SDGs?
- What's the role of the SDGs in contributing to business strategy?
- Has reporting increased the understanding of the opportunities and threats related to the topics covered by the SDGs?
- How has involvement by businesses in the SDGs led to new partnerships or different ways of working?
Following each of the forums, a report covering the main outputs will be published so that a wider audience can engage in the trends, initiatives and challenges that have been discussed - with the aim of inspiring others to get involved.
Based on these reports, phase two of the project will see four regional events taking place around the world next year, where key findings from the research will be shared. These will focus on practical learning and action that encourage companies to engage in SDG reporting and make the transition to more sustainable business models by engaging in partnerships and collaboration.
All of this activity builds up to the pivotal 2020 UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, which will mark the five-year milestone for the SDGs when the world will take stock of progress made.
What is clear is that without the involvement of an engaged private sector, the SDGs will fall short. There is therefore both an urgent opportunity and necessity to increase the momentum and stimulate greater business engagement in the SDGs. That is why we need as many organizations as possible to get involved in the project.
At its heart, this work is about understanding how businesses, governments and other organizations each can play their part in contributing towards the success of the SDGs. Ultimately, this can help us navigate the route to a more sustainable future, which will benefit companies, communities and the planet.