Business of the Global Goals

Davos Diary: Thursday 21 January

Momentum around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is strong in Davos and there is good reason for that. These global goals have struck a chord in the business sector, thanks to the undeniable success of the Millennium Development Goals over the past 15 years, but also because the SDGs are truly universal and make a stronger case for everyone - both collectively and individually- to pitch in. This time it is not just about the rich countries helping poorer countries, it is about addressing global issues. As with the case of violent extremism, it is clear that achieving the SDGs will require innovative partnerships and real commitment from all sectors of society, including business.

A lot has been said about how the private sector can contribute to achieving these goals: contribute resources, share expertise, help scale up initiatives that have positive ripple effects and accelerate innovation. Even though there has been remarkable progress in how corporations deal with global challenges, there is still immense potential for more action and more impact, whether through philanthropy, corporate social responsibility or public-private partnerships. It is so encouraging to see some of the new engagement models emerging being discussed here at Davos. A great example of this is the "Pledge 1%" initiative. It enables companies to devote 1% of the time of their employees, their capital, their products or profits, to help others. Corporate philanthropy is being redefined into integrated philanthropy. And if business is redefining how to engage for a better world, the international system also needs to rewire so it is well equipped to be an effective partner.

The potential of these partnerships is real. However, just as we need all actors on deck, we need to produce the right environments for the private sector to innovate and for these partnerships to succeed. The public sector can create such an environment, by providing the right incentives, designing adequate tax systems, addressing critical infrastructure gaps and ensuring that the knowledge and skills development across key sectors are in sync. It means reimagining stock markets and maximizing the potential of social investments. It will require new solutions that can generate the capital required across sectors to achieve common objectives - like the 'social impact bonds' spearheaded by the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Geneva.

Another key element is to build on the lessons learned in the past 15 years to make our efforts more catalytic and sustainable. If we are to succeed in achieving the Global Goals, we need to make sure we prioritize projects that target the most vulnerable populations, maximize interventions that benefit the most number of people and identify those that are truly replicable and scalable.

The best partnerships succeed because they share common objectives, resources, risks and rewards. We now have an agreed set of goals. We need to mobilize the resources and creatively find ways around the risks so we can all share the reward of achieving the global goals. Hopefully everyone here gets the message.