Over more than a decade, the international community has been working on reaching targets set forth by the Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight goals which focused global attention on a limited set of concrete human development goals and provided targets for national and international development priorities. As these targets are set to expire in 2015, the international community, including the private sector and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are currently discussing what will comprise the new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) post-2015.
Based on extensive consultations with the UN Global Compact network of companies around the world, a series of ten issue briefs have been developed to explore the critical role business has to play in achieving sustainable development goals, and the willingness of the business community and HEIs, to support the efforts of government and civil society in this work. These briefs provide suggestions of issues and accountability mechanisms to be included in the SDGs and outline business’ role in helping to achieve these goals. These papers were presented to the co-chairs of the inter-governmental Open Working Group on SDG.
Here is a brief introduction to the different issues presented including, in part 1, energy & climate, education, food & agriculture, governance & human rights, and health, and in part 2 infrastructure & technology, peace & stability, poverty, water & sanitation and women’s empowerment. For more detailed information click on the links to access the full issue briefs.
Energy & Climate: Climate change and unmet energy demands are challenges that recognise no political or physical boundaries, crossing all sectors and industries globally. The private sector has a role to play as solutions-providers in mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change and ensuring energy security, while simultaneously generating attractive financial returns. It also plays a role in developing new and innovative solutions to climate and energy challenges, and finding ways to collaborate and form partnerships, seizing opportunities for greater investment in technological solutions. Additionally, businesses themselves are aligning business practices to advance climate solutions—raising standards, increasing efficiency and reducing emissions, and committing to longer range sustainability objectives and goals in order to better align their efforts and strategies in relation to the broad global sustainable development agenda. For more on one active private sector participation, see Caring for Climate, an initiative aimed at advancing the role of business in addressing climate change.
Education: Businesses consistently single out education as the first or second priority for the post-2015 world, and also one of the areas where they are best positioned to make a difference. This includes ensuring that every child completes primary education, facilitating computing skills in secondary schools, increasing the percentage of young adults with skills needed for work, achieving parity in enrolment and educational opportunities at all levels for girls and women, and including sustainable development concepts at all levels of schooling with special emphasis on business school. The business community is doing this through partnerships, on the job training, the development of new technologies, and through initiatives such as the Framework for Business Engagement in Education and the Principles for Responsible Management Education.
Food & Agriculture: Farming and food occupy a pivotal position in sustainable development. Enhanced harvests, food processing and distribution will help to eradicate hunger, renovation of the rural sectors of the developing world, where the great bulk if the poor are found, is key to an advance on prosperity, and current agricultural practices are at once contributing and threatened by, climate change. The business sector believes the goals in this area should focus on eradicating hunger and halting increase of obesity and malnutrition, doubling the productivity of agriculture in the least developed countries, stopping and turning back the increase in greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation resulting from farming and livestock, decreasing overexploitation of ocean fish stocks, and reducing food waste. Business can play a role through development of new crops, training of farmers, utilising new technologies and processes, and increasing collaboration and lesson-sharing through issue platforms such as the Food and Agriculture Business Principles.
Governance & Human Rights: The business community identified both fair and efficient governance and an environment where human rights can flourish as not only benefiting business, but being necessary features of a sustainable society. This includes raising awareness and implementation of all UN human rights conventions and instruments, achieving competitive and transparent procurement processes, further developing an open, rule based, non-discriminatory international trading and financial system, and establishing a climate supportive of business and investment at home and from overseas—including further incentives in favour of sustainability. Business can play a role through scrupulous respect for human rights in the workplace and in their dealings with stakeholders, as well as through the framework laid out in the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights.
Health: Health is central to development and is an investment that enables economic growth and wealth, as well as better quality of lives. This includes affordable access to quality treatment and care for all, the reduction of the reach of TB, malaria,HIV/AIDS, and non-communicable diseases, universal reproductive health services, and reducing maternal and under-five mortality. Health care constitutes a major industry and is involved in global campaigns to fight disease and make medications more affordable. They are also involved in innovative partnerships in wide-ranging areas such as research & development, disease elimination, new business models, community partnerships, and innovative licensing.
From now through July 2014, the Online Consultation for the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda on Engaging with the Private Sector is being held on the World We Want platform, hosted by the UN Global Compact and UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). You can contribute to the dialogue at www.worldwewant2015.org/privatesector2015.