Business Solutions for the SDGs: How private sector and UN can partner to achieve the Global Goals

Sep 20, 2017

Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, discusses with business leaders how the private sector can help achieve the sustainable development goals worldwide, on the margins of the General Assembly. Photo: UNDP

UN leadership and private sector discuss how business can contribute to sustainable development

New York – With its on-the-ground networks and its ability to swiftly adapt and innovate, the private sector is well-positioned to bring new solutions to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by their 2030 target. In addition, the SDGs present significant opportunities for the private sector to open up new market opportunities and attract new private investments in sustainable development by leveraging companies’ core competencies, expertise and resources.

Recognizing this, UN leadership, including UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner and UN Global Compact CEO and and Executive Director Lise Kingo, met with business leaders from IKEA, Nutriset, Microsoft, Telenor, AACE Foods, and Willis Towers Watson during an event on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, Business Solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals, to discuss how private sector and development actors can more systematically collaborate to achieve the SDGs while ensuring business profit, scale and sustainability.

While the private sector can bring both agility in delivery and new approaches to financing the SDGs, the UN has an important role to play in creating an enabling environment for business to contribute, said Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator.

“Much of what we do in our development support work with countries, governments and communities – but also in our relationship with business – is to de-risk development by getting the right public policies in place; by allowing technologies to be built in a labour market that has certain minimum capacities and skill sets; by influencing the kind of education and training programmes … that will allow [businesses] to step in earlier, faster, and at a larger scale,” said Mr. Steiner. 

Many leading companies are already using the SDGs to help them develop new inclusive and sustainable opportunities. However, barriers such as regulatory environments, lack of information, and lack of systematic public-private sector collaboration is currently preventing more businesses from responding to the Global Goals.

“The businesses who have already integrated SDGs into their business models have to play a catalytic role; other businesses should see how we have transformed ours and want to emulate us,” said AACE Foods Co-Founder and Director Ndidi Nwuneli.

As businesses rethink their strategies and grapple with how they need to change their organizations to thrive and grow in today’s world, the SDGs can be an opportunity.

The Business Solutions for the SDGs event examined how businesses can use the SDGs to manage long-term risks and find opportunities to grow and develop their business while generating the significant societal and environmental benefits that their customers, investors, as well as the global community, increasingly value. Business leaders shared their perspectives on how they have and will continue to leverage their assets to promote sustainable development and help leave no one behind.

For further information:

BCtA Communications Lead: Aimee Brown at or +1 929 313 4481

UNDP Private Sector Partnerships:
UNDP is co-designing new approaches to convene businesses, governments and civil society to test new partnership models and design high-value business solutions that hit multiple SDG targets across different sectors. UNDP’s approach for working with the private sector can be explained around 3 “Cs”: Convene, Catalyze and Capitalize to leverage partnerships for the SDGs.

UN Global Compact: Encourages all companies to voluntarily align their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted sustainability principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and to take action in support of UN goals.  The SG’s June report on UNDS reform to deliver on the SDGs proposes a review of the role/relationship of UNGC with UNCTs to enhance engagement with entrepreneurs, private sector, and financial institutions to effectively support national SDG priorities.

Business Call to Action (BCtA): Launched in 2008, BCtA aims to accelerate progress towards the SDGs by challenging companies to develop inclusive business models that offer the potential for both commercial success and development impact. BCtA is a unique multilateral alliance between key donor governments, including the Dutch MFA, SIDA, SDC, USAID, Finland, and UNDP. BCtA’s 200+ member companies, across 67 countries, have pledged to provide access to financial services for 59M people, improve health for 63M and enhance access to energy for 90M hom

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