As prepared for delivery.
Thank you and welcome ladies and gentlemen to the Business Call to Action’s Ninth Annual Forum. It is a pleasure to see so many colleagues and partners here with us this morning.
On behalf of BCtA, I first wish to extend our thanks and appreciation to those whose vision and commitment enable us to work with business to help move the development agenda forward. Business Call to Action came to life through a partnership between key donor governments, including the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Switzerland, and the United Nations Development Programme with a mission to challenge companies to develop and scale inclusive business models that engage the world’s poorest as employees, producers, suppliers, distributors and consumers of goods and services.
The presence here today of leaders from many of BCtA’s more than 240 member companies demonstrates that companies are rising to the challenge and other stakeholders are heeding the call for private sector action in sustainable development. This is welcome news as the private sector is essential to solving the greatest challenges of our time.
I recently heard a powerful comparison to put sometimes hard-to-comprehend global statistics into more tangible terms. If we were to describe our world today as a village of 100 people – just 100 people – 11 suffer from hunger and malnutrition, 10 live in extreme poverty, 42 rely exclusively on biomass for heating and cooking; 21 lack access to electricity; 10 lack access to clean water; 35 lack access to sanitation; 6 lack access to essential health care services, and one person owns more wealth than more than half of the entire village combined.
With challenges at this scale, working in isolation is not an option. Governments and development partners cannot ignore the potential of the private sector to contribute to innovative development solutions. For companies themselves, these problems create at least US$12 trillion in opportunities and a fertile market for businesses to provide goods, services and jobs. And inclusive business in particular has the power to address each of them, as we see from BCtA’s diverse member network.
Just since last year’s BCtA Annual Forum, 28 new BCtA member companies, ranging from SMEs to multinationals, have made concrete, measurable commitments to 11 of the 17 SDGs. Their inclusive business commitments include, among many others, providing IT training to low-income women in Turkey (Turkcell); ensuring access to safe drinking water for millions of people in Bangladesh (Unilever); connecting thousands of artisanal fishers in Peru with customers and fair pay (Sustainable Fishery Trade); and delivering access to neo-natal treatment for patients across Africa (MTTS).
Inclusive business approaches go beyond corporate social responsibility, philanthropy, and impact investment by connecting poor people to markets. They encompass business approaches that directly improve the lives of the poor by making them part of the value chain of companies’ core business. The world’s multilateral development banks have invested over US$15 billion in inclusive business approaches and private investors have raised US$6 billion in funds for businesses with not only commercial viability, but also explicit social objectives.
More companies are catching on to the fact that regular, timely, sustained impact management improves outputs and grows business value. New technologies too are enabling systemic changes in inclusive business, contributing to transformations for more secure global payment systems, supply chain management, digital identities and access to finance, and more accurate data delivered when and where it’s needed. Importantly, inclusive businesses are also integrating climate risks into decision-making in order to prevent disasters and assure sustainability of food, water and jobs for the future – a critical action all companies must undertake in the fight against climate change, as we heard during Monday’s UN Climate Action Summit.
At the same time, we need more. Relatively few inclusive business models have reached tens of millions of people. Many ventures have failed to scale up after pilots and reach profitability – even after many years. Inclusive business practitioners say it’s hard to find evidence on what’s working today.
Companies – even with technology and a ready market – cannot advance inclusive business alone. They need support from diverse stakeholders. They need models that work today and that will continue to bring impact tomorrow. How can we achieve this? The answer, at least partially, can be found in today’s themes of collaboration and innovation. These are more than just buzz words. These are critical components of scale.
Today we will get the chance to learn from successful business leaders their answers to the question of “how”. I hope that by the end of the day, everyone here will walk away with better ideas and a better network with which to collaborate and innovate for the impactful models of tomorrow.
I’d like to conclude my remarks with a reminder that UNDP stands ready as a partner in sustainable development. 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.
Through initiatives like Business Call to Action, UNDP is bringing tangible responses to the world’s challenges, building on the positives, better managing the negatives, and leveraging long-standing expertise to achieve the SDGs.
The new Finance Sector Hub is working to identify existing finance for development work across UNDP and scale-up SDG financing. As ‘the most comprehensive set of targets’ available for tracking progress in sustainable development, as one recent study described the SDGs, UNDP is also working to create a commonly accepted way to verify that investors and businesses takes a holistic approach to manage positive and negative impacts on the SDGs. UNDP’s SDG Impact facility aims to advance a unified, global effort to authenticate SDG-enabling investments and Business Call to Action’s own BCtA Impact Lab is already supporting dozens of companies with measuring and managing their impact against the SDGs, as we’ll hear more about later in the day.
Such initiatives allow UNDP to better support the private sector in mobilizing and directing finance towards a sustainable future and make business decisions that contribute to achieving the SDGs. I want to encourage UNDP’s partners and others to continue to take full advantage of UNDP’s unique, integrated offer and the possibilities that partnering with UNDP represents for financing and driving sustainable development.
Thank you all and enjoy the day.