As frequently volatile storms, floods and droughts indicate, the impact of both climate change and natural hazard risks is growing. Addressing these challenges, and ensuring that countries are able to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), requires strong partnerships and more investment from the private sector in risk-informed, sustainable development.
Yet, understanding the role of the private sector within the development sphere is a continual challenge. It is not always clear how to combine sustainable, risk-informed development with a commercial agenda. This lack of clarity played out during a recent meeting with Portek, an international port operating company, at a public/private sector conference in Geneva. During the meeting, we discussed ways to overcome the perceived dichotomy of contributing to the SDGs while ensuring Portek maintained a profitable business model.
To meet both objectives, I suggested that Portek could diversify its investment portfolio by supporting port operations in countries that are highly prone to natural hazards, or it could conclude an agreement with a national government to conduct surge response support activities at a port in the event of a disaster. An approach such as this would allow Portek to generate a profit while contributing to risk-informed development.
Bridging this divide between private sector interest in meeting the SDGs and the reality that corporations need to sustain profitable businesses, is exactly where UNDP’s role comes in to play. UNDP has the ability to build partnerships between the UN, the private sector, national governments and other international agencies.
These partnerships can harness capital and expertise from the private sector to find solutions to development challenges in a way that is both feasible for the private sector and appropriate for each country’s national context. A recent analysis highlighted in the report, UNDP and the Private Sector, shows how the private sector is engaged in supporting countries with expertise, capital, innovation and technology.