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Engaging the private sector in achieving the SDGs

  • Published at 09:22 pm July 30th, 2018
Businesses and the government together can grasp the full potential that SDGs can offer Bigstock

What is the next step for Bangladesh? This is the concluding part of yesterday’s two-part op-ed

In the “front-facing” parts of the business, such as marketing, product development, and customer service, companies ignore consumers at their peril. A citizen survey conducted by PwC revealed that 78% of citizens were more likely to use the goods and services of an organization that had signed up to the SDGs.

In a world where time costs money, non-financial impacts are rarely measured and investment budgets are under scrutiny and stringent prioritization, what’s the reality and appetite to embed SDGs?

Clarity is required to give businesses the confidence to embrace the SDGs. Guidelines, case studies, best practice examples, mapping tools, etc, are all needed. But we’re hearing businesses ask for support with financing, resources, and skill requirements as well. It is only when they are in place that we will see real engagement.

Engaging the private sector

The SDGs were created to provide a comprehensive yet simple blueprint for successful sustainable development that leaves no one behind. For governments, that means assessing their national position on each goal and putting in place measures to achieve the same. Companies, however, seem to see their commitment differently.

Prioritizing the goals isn’t as straightforward as it might appear. It seems obvious that companies would focus on the goals that are most relevant to their business. But how do companies identify these goals?

Also Read- Engaging the private sector in achieving the SDGs

Answering that question requires an in-depth sustainability analysis of business operations, sourcing, and supply chain -- one that many companies (especially smaller or privately held organizations) have not undertaken in the past and may currently be too under-resourced to conduct. It also requires a more long-term vision of, and approach to, business growth strategy and planning than some companies are used to employing.

We believe that when companies incorporate the goals into growth strategies, core operations, value chains, and policy positions, they will benefit from new opportunities and markets, realize big efficiency gains, and also enhance their reputations in the eyes of governments and society.

Armed with SDGs aligned with KPIs and metrics, companies can develop meaningful reporting that accounts for both financial and societal value and the impact of their activities. By doing so, they will grasp the full potential that the SDGs offer for their own business and the world.

The governments of Canada and Australia have both published reports assessing the opportunities and challenges that arise from the SDGs from their national perspective. The government of Finland has established a multi-stakeholder SDG Commission led by the prime minister, with a mission to embed sustainable development into Finnish policies, measures, budgets, and action.

Further, the German government has established a Council for Sustainable Development, an advisory body mandated by and reporting back to the German federal government. Similarly, governments such as India, Colombia, and Botswana have all made public their strategic planning and commitments to the agenda.

Our government has tried to align its national policies with the SDGs; however, they are still missing out on a key element of engaging the private sector in realizing the goals.

Our sustainable future

In our mind, the roll-out of the SDGs is like a blueprint for shifting the needle, a first towards providing everyone the basic necessities of life. In other words, the end goal is creating a thriving society in a thriving environment. It’s an environment where business will prosper too.

The year 2030 will be here before we know it, so it’s important to act now. Our government needs to act on its priorities - the initiatives it will put in place, what it will measure, and how it will monitor progress.

Businesses need to understand what the individual SDGs are actually about, the overlaps between them, how their own activity contributes towards the achievement of each one (both positively and negatively), and the action and investment required.

The private sector needs to have an informed dialogue with the government and stay competitive. Data will be crucial - determining what to measure and how, and actually measuring, monitoring, and reporting it will all be significant challenges in themselves.

Citizens need to know what they should strive for, and introducing SDGs at all levels of academic curriculum might be a good start. Bangladesh, the MDG star performer, should aim to be the SDG champion.

Mamun Rashid is a Partner and Jishan Rahman is a Government Reform Consultant at PwC Bangladesh.

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