UNDP provides enterprises, business incubators and external accelerators with advisory, expertise and tools to enable implementation and acceleration of the SDGs. In collaboration with partners, the SDG Accelerator provides acceleration programs or targeted support to partners to support companies at different growth/maturity stages, which enables the adjustment of business models to accelerate sustainable innovation and business development delivering on the SDG targets.
The SDGs provide a plan of action for addressing the world's most pressing challenges, and thereby also a framework for sustainable solutions. The private sector is an essential part of these solutions, and more and more companies recognise the SDGs as levers of innovation, growth, and competitive performance. The SDGs also make up a powerful framework for strengthening the companies’ purpose narrative and for attracting talents, customers, and investors.
Designed for SMEs, but relevant for all business segments
The SDG Accelerator is part of UNDPs service offer called Impact Venture Accelerators (IVAs), which targets business of all sizes, including Pre-seed, Start-up/Early Growth/Growth, series A/B as well as established and corporate enterprises interested in contributing to the SDGs. UNDP provides targeted innovative services to these different business segments.
Initially, the SDG Accelerator methodology was developed specifically for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), as this target group is not only the biggest group of companies on a global scale - and hence needs to be engaged to reach the SDGs - but SMEs are also a group of companies that typically receives less attention in terms of business support and investment worldwide. Since its inception in 2018, the SDG Accelerator methodology has been applied to support companies at different growth and maturity stages ranging from start-up to larger corporations.
The SDG Accelerator methodology has also been tailored to fit various contexts and has been delivered both in virtual, physical and hybrid formats. The Accelerator process itself can be scaled up or down and range from a couple of months and up to a year depending on feasibility and scope.
Read more about the methodology and the toolbox here.
A unique approach to innovation and business development
The SDG Accelerator methodology is unique in the United Nations family as it directly supports business development and commercial, sustainable, and green growth in enterprises. The methodology combines UNDP's insights into the challenges embedded in the SDGs, with intelligence from carefully selected external practitioners and experts, as well as advisory competence from and external commercial facilitator. Initially, the SDG Accelerator was developed in close collaboration with Nordic frontrunner companies with solid experience from integrating sustainability into innovation, business strategy and outreach.
Supporting the development of sustainable business models
Through the SDG Accelerator, companies are supported in developing sustainable business models and business cases contributing to the SDG targets. The term business model refers to the company’s plan for making profit, while also delivering significant impact on the SDGs. It identifies the products or services the business plans to sell, its target market, and any anticipated costs. Business models are important for both new and established businesses, however for established companies the business model should be updated regularly and should be reworked, if necessary to integrate the SDGs and sustainability into its core.
The companies in the Accelerator programme work towards integrating sustainability into their strategies. This is done through either developing new business models and cases or through elevating their existing business model to align with their sustainability strategy. For some companies this will lead to the development of new sustainable products or services to the market, and for others it will lead to a refinement of the existing business model to scale and grow SDG impact even more.
For example, Rudolph Care, participating in the SDG Accelerator Denmark in 2019, worked to increase the amount of sustainable packaging used in their value chains. Another company, Jespers Torvekøkken together with the Danish technical university, developed an innovative hardware solution to decrease food waste from their cooperation in the SDG Accelerator Denmark 2018.
For UNDP, a key driver for engaging in SDG Accelerators with partners is to be able to drive SDG impact at scale by intensifying sustainable innovation delivering on the SDG targets in private sector enterprises.
Another driver is to use the inspiring cases coming out of each accelerator to motivate other actors across the world to also start or intensify their SDG impact.