Keynote address on the role of business in shaping sustainability policy and practice at the Diplomat Networking Club Breakfast Meeting

February 26, 2024
Anesu Freddy/UNDP Zimbabwe

Hon Sithembiso Nyoni, Minister of Industry and Commerce

Dr Prosper Matondi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Climate and Wildlife

Ambassadors and members of Diplomatic Corps (Egypt, Ethiopia, Malaysia and Rwanda, etc.)

Distinguished Panelists and Invited Guests

Board Members and Members of Diplomat Business Networking Club

Captains and Representatives of Industry

Representatives of the Media

Ladies and Gentlemen

What a privilege it is to stand before such an esteemed gathering of leaders, both from government and the business sector, to delve into the dynamic realm of sustainability policy and practice.

The theme before us, "The Role of Business in Shaping Sustainability Policy and Practice," is not just an event title – it is a clarion call. The world thirsts for solutions, and the power to create them lies right here, in this room.

The United Nations Development Programme stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Zimbabwe in its pursuit of sustainable human development. We work tirelessly to connect people, ideas, and resources, weaving a tapestry of progress that empowers entire communities. But we cannot do it alone.

The sobering reality is that the Sustainable Development Goals – our roadmap to a better future – face critical challenges. Globally, progress is lagging. Here in Zimbabwe, while there are pockets of success, many goals require urgent attention.

According to the 2023 SDGs mid-year report, 3 SDGs are moderately improving, 7 SDGs are at a stand-still, and more investment is needed in 5 SDGs. We do not have data for the other 2 goals.

But let me be clear: these statistics are not pronouncements of defeat, but fuel for our collective ambition and actions towards progress! They illuminate the path ahead, highlighting the areas where businesses, like yours, embrace the boundless opportunities that lie ahead.

Hon Minister, Laddies and Gentlemen

Good news is that each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a business opportunity in Africa in general and Zimbabwe specifically.

Allow me to explore some of these areas that businesses can impact  the SDGs:

  1. Businesses play an important role in achievement of SDGs

The private sector isn't just a beneficiary of the SDGs. It is a driving force! Your investments, not just financial, but also in sustainable practices and inclusive operations, unlock a future where profit intertwines with purpose.

The private sector does not only contribute to economic growth and development. It creates decent jobs, provides goods and services, contributes tax revenues to finance social and economic infrastructure, and promotes efficient flow of capital.

Each job created, each skill developed, each innovation sparked by your businesses creates waves of positive change. It empowers individuals, strengthens communities, and paves the way for a thriving Zimbabwe. In fact, achieving the NDS goal of becoming an Upper Middle Income Country by 2030 when private sector and the Government play their respective roles.

Remember the Five principles of SDGs: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnerships. Each one hinges on the others. Businesses cannot thrive in a vacuum of poverty, conflict, or environmental degradation. The SDGs offer a roadmap to a world where companies win alongside communities and the planet.

This takes me to the principles guiding private sector engagement with sustainability agenda: The triple bottom lines -  Financial profitability in the form of economic viability, Social profitability through social equity, and Environmental profitability via environmental protection. It is when these triple bottom lines are maximized that  sustainability agenda becomes a reality.

At this point, I am reminded of the words of Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General

“We need business leaders to use their enormous influence to push for inclusive growth and opportunities. No one business can afford to ignore this effort, and there is no global goal that cannot benefit from private sector investment.”

As we are all aware, there is increased global focus on the SDGs, with more investment and grant-funding targeted towards SDG-aligned businesses.

So, investing in sustainability is not only a good practice, it is a business imperative!

  1. Business Investments are critical in shaping sustainability policy and practice.

UNDP has walked alongside the private sector for years, partnering in ventures that empower communities, foster innovation, and build resilience. We have seen first-hand the power of inclusive businesses, thriving value chains, and market-driven solutions to climate change.

It's encouraging to see transparency and responsibility taking centre stage. Businesses are embracing the need for authentic sustainability, understanding that informed consumers demand more than just words. Today's event is a crucial step in that journey.

It is befitting that the meeting today will highlight the guidelines and practices that businesses can implement to ensure their operations are environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable.

Practical actions being taken by businesses include reducing carbon footprint and wasteful practices. Practically, for businesses to address environmental degradation, they must consume scarce natural resources more efficiently, reduce belching out smokes, stop pouring out effluents, and end dumping hazardous solid wastes.

I am glad that in June 2019 the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange announced new listing requirements, which includes “Part XXI Sustainability Information and Disclosure in compliance with the ESG reporting requirements. In addition, the Stock Exchange also published its Green and Social Bond Principles for social and green bonds and maintained its membership of the United Nations Sustainable Stock Exchange (SSE) initiative. The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange's leadership in this regard is a commendable first step towards operationalizing the National Development Strategy’s objectives  of equitable human development, climate resilience, equitable growth and inclusive governance. It has laid the foundation for Zimbabwean businesses to champion Leaving No One Behind agenda.

We are also committed to supporting Zimbabwe's private sector in unleashing its remarkable potential while contributing to a sustainable future.

  1. How are global businesses addressing the sustainability agenda?

A survey of 1,000 CEOs across the world by the UN Global Compact and Accenture – on applying SDGs in a business context – found that:

First, “87% of CEOs believe the SDGs provide an opportunity to rethink approaches to sustainable value creation”.

Second, “Another 70% see SDGs providing a clear framework to structure sustainability efforts”.

The practicality of putting the sustainability agenda in the hands of the private sector lies in Awareness, Avoidance, Acting and Shifting positions towards reuse, repair and recycle,  and Adoption of new technologies for greening their businesses, including investing in low carbon technologies, and building climate resilience into their investments and operations.

Some new ways of doing business that could promote low-carbon footprint from businesses include:

  1. Encourage remote work
  2. Buy green office supplies
  3. Recycle and reuse
  4. Reduce wastes
  5. Improve energy efficiency
  6. Conserve water
  7. Manage chemicals safely.

SDGs Compass outlines five steps to maximize business contributions to SDGs and sustainability agenda:

  1. Understanding the SDGs
  2. Defining priorities
  3. Setting goals and targets – to this effect SDG Compass have developed 800 indicators and 60 toolkits
  4. Integrating sustainability into business strategies and practices
  5. Reporting and communicating.

Honourable Minister, Ladies and Gentleman,

We are not starting from the scratch. There are many examples of targets set by global corporates that could serve as pacesetters for us.

  • Microsoft: Pledge to achieve carbon negative by 2030 – remove more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits.
  • Starbucks: Pledge to reduce its carbon emission by 50% and reduce its water withdrawal by 50% for direct operation and coffee production.
  • Mastercard: Pledge to plant 100 million trees over 5 years.
  • Black Rock: Pledge 15% reduction in carbon emissions across new investments.

What form of PPP can be explored in Zimbabwe?

There are several PPP approaches that could be explored in Zimbabwe. The popular example here is Concessioning, which is applicable to greenfield through BOT – Build-Operate-Transfer,  BTO – Build-Transfer-Operate,  BOOT – Build-Own-Operate-Transfer , BOO – Build-Own-Operate,  BLT – Build-Lease-Transfer , BTL – Build-Transfer-Lease, and  PFI – Private Finance Initiative. Another example of Concessioning applied to  Brownfield projects includes ROT – Rehabilitate-Operate-Transfer Lease. Concessioning could also be applied to services through Service Contract Management or Contract Operation and  Maintenance Contract Lease or outsourcing.

Other forms of concessioning include pre-financing through tax expenditure, asset recycling, economic diplomacy in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through Economic and Investment attaches, Derisking of investment climate in specific sectors, Supply Development Programmes, to mention a few.

Honourable Minister, Ladies and Gentleman,

Allow me to outline relevant UNDP Initiatives and related case studies:

UNDP Sustainable Finance Hub:

The Sustainable Finance Hub brings together UNDP’s financial expertise to harness public and private capital for the Sustainable Development Goals – supporting governments, investors, and businesses in reaching climate, social impact and sustainability targets. Its work drives systemic change towards a sustainable financial architecture that benefits people and planet.

SDG Impact:

Birthed out of the Sustainable Finance Hub, the SDG Impact Investment Map is a flagship initiative that helps businesses and investors align their efforts with the SDGs through standards, education, and assurance schemes, as well as through the SDG Investor Maps. This has been conducted in 30 African countries with over 300 Investment Opportunities Areas identified in five strategic sectors: Agriculture and food beverages, infrastructure, health services, education, and renewable energy.

SDG Impact Frameworks for Zimbabwe’s Private Sector

Here in Zimbabwe, we have partnered with more than 90 private sector organisations under the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries and the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, in pursuit of private sector engagement in the SDGs.

We are empowering businesses to identify, articulate, and measure their SDG contributions and to make more informed decisions about their contribution.

We have also worked with growth-stage businesses in 2023 through Accelerate 2030 which seeks to support SDG-aligned companies to scale. As a result, 10 growth-stage companies were capacitated for SDGs and two of them qualified for the global finals, taking up 2 of the 5 global finals slots.

UNDP is also working with the private sector on tackling waste and energy usage.

The hospitality industry generates a lot of food waste that is sent to landfills and dumpsites, contributing to increased greenhouse gas emissions. We are happy to be supporting the audits of Energy, Water, Hydrofluorocarbons, and Waste. These audits were completed with a baseline and investment grade report for each entity.

This initiative will assist Zimbabwe in identifying and quantifying the reduction in emissions and overall contribution to the Nationally Determined Contributions.

On renewable energy initiatives, UNDP leveraged a US$20 million investment from public and private sources through the SDG Renewable Energy Fund and created an Impact Investment Framework to assess potential renewable energy projects.

At least 62 business ideas and proposals registered their interest in the loan facility and potential technical assistance.

The significance of the above lies in that all investments in the sector will be channeled in a coordinated approach towards key priorities within the energy sector for Zimbabwe as articulated in the NDS1 and the prioritized SDGs Goals for Zimbabwe.

Let me quote Paul Polman: CEO, Unilever who once said:

“It is not possible to have a strong, functioning business in a world of increasing inequality, poverty, and climate change”.

To addresses challenges, UNDP, in collaboration with its international partners, is working with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce on review and implementation of the National Industrial Strategy and the operationalization of the value chain development in the country. Zimbabwe needs the world and the world needs Zimbabwe. The country can use what it has (including human capital such as its powerful diaspora, natural resources like lithium, diamond and gold) to accelerate its economic transformation and inclusive development. Zimbabwe must stop exporting primary commodities, through critical minerals beneficiation, to achieve the upper middle income country status by 2030.

We are also working with SMEs development, national resilience building, energy access, climate adaptation and mitigation measures, and strengthening health system development, among others. Our interventions have benefitted 1.1 million people on resilience building, over 710,000 people supported on ARV daily, and another 1.2 million people on energy access, including solar for health.  This would not have been achieved without the support of national and international partners.

In conclusion, Hon Minister, Distinguished Laddies and Gentlemen,

The future is knocking, and it demands actions. No longer is sustainability a box to check, but the very foundation for businesses that thrive. Studies show clear links between environmental, social, and governance practices (ESG) and stronger performance, attracting investors and empowering communities.

Toyota's Environmental Director,  Kevin Butt, reminds us: we can be part of the solution, driving growth alongside environmental responsibility.

Honourable Minister, ladies and gentleman, Zimbabwe's private sector holds the key.

Strengthening your ESG principles isn't just noble, it is smart. It leads to greater economic prosperity, reduced risk, and a future where your businesses, communities, and the planet flourish together.

Today's discussions are a springboard, not an endpoint. Let us translate them into tangible actions, innovative solutions, and a collaborative journey towards a sustainable Zimbabwe.

Will you join us in making that promise a reality?

Together, let's unlock the remarkable potential of Zimbabwe's private sector. Let's build a future where business profits contribute to empowered individuals, thriving communities, and a healthy planet.

Thank you.

Dr Ayodele Odusola

UNDP Resident Representative

15 February 2024.