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, in Part 2 of the blogpost, is an introduction to the issues of infrastructure & technology, peace & stability, poverty, water & sanitation and women’s empowerment. For more detailed information click on the links below to access the full issue brief. (See Part 1 for energy & climate, education, food & agriculture, governance & human rights, and health)
Infrastructure and Technology: Technology is the beating heart of economic transformation, and good infrastructure protects the environment while providing the leverage people need to lift themselves out of poverty. This includes deploying investment sufficient to meet requirements for “green” transport, energy, and water systems in the developing world and upgrading and replacing old infrastructure in the developed world, increasing the share of the population with access to public transportation, stepping up R&D in both public and private sectors and reducing carbon emissions from the construction and operation of buildings. Equally important, is creating universal and affordable access to the internet and computing technology, and effective use of e-governance to increase managerial capacity and transparency. Businesses are engaging in these issues in a variety of ways, including through the Green Growth Action Alliance launched by the World Economic Forum.
Peace and Stability: Businesses consider peace and security to be crucial to sustainable development, and an area where their own interests give them reason to complement the responsibility of public institutions to build and maintain peaceful situations. This includes improving access to justice, services and economic opportunity for diverse ethnic, religious and social groups; improving mediation, dispute resolution and dialogue mechanisms to prevent and resolve conflict and to build peace; and reducing violent deaths, preventing and reducing the illicit trade of small arms, and reducing the reach and extent of organised crime—especially through the provisions of the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime. Violent crimes are bad for business, and companies are looking at the means they have at their disposal to defuse social conflicts before they get out of hand or, in post-conflict situations, help to weave a strong social fabric leading to shared prosperity and stability. Businesses are engaging in these issues through platforms such as the UN Global Compact’s Business For Peace.
Poverty: The eradication of poverty is widely expected to be the overarching objective of the Sustainable Development Goals. This includes eliminating extreme poverty (those living under $1.25/day in 2005 real US dollars), creating jobs , eliminating child labour, ensuring full access to private finance and reducing the Gini co-efficient rating, a measurement of income inequality, in each country. Recognising the drawbacks that even moderate poverty poses to societies and economies, a growing number of companies are adopting new policies and practices that are inclusive of the poor as employees, customers, suppliers, and neighbours. This includes work being done through the Women’s Empowerment Principles and the Poverty Footprint Methodology.
Water and Sanitation: Water and sanitation are key given their cross-cutting nature in relation to sustainable development priorities—including energy, food, and women’s and girl’s empowerment. This includes universal access to affordable and safe fresh water, and basic and improved sanitation facilities to bring freshwater use in line with supply, and ensure establishment and full implementation of national water effluent standards. A growing number of companies are adopting new policies and practices to reduce their corporate water use, improve the quality of water returned to the environment, and to provide decent water, sanitation and hygiene services for employees, and the communities in which they operate. Further efforts include the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate and the CEO Water Mandate’s Water Action Hub.
Women’s Empowerment: A key target for the sustainable development priorities will be to achieve women’s and girl’s empowerment. This includes increasing the proportion of leadership positions held by women in public and private sectors, universally recognising and enforcing equal pay for equal work, increasing full and equal access of women to ownership, property rights and land titles, and reducing the rates of violent acts committed against women and girls. In addition to gender equality being a fundamental and inviolable human right, women’s and girls’ empowerment is essential to expanding economic growth, promoting social development, and enhancing business performance. The full incorporation of women’s capacities into labour forces would add percentage points to most national growth rates. Business is engaging through the Women’ Empowerment Principles among a range of efforts, to further this goal.
For more details about the business sectors contribution to the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals visit the UN Global Compact site and stay tuned for future Primetime Posts on the topic.
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.