CONCORD (the European Confederation of Relief and Development NGOs, and the main interlocutor with the EU institutions on development policy) has recently published a new policy document A 10-point roadmap for Europe - On the role of the private sector in development (NOTE: I am one of the team of authors). The report sets out 10 areas of action for the EU to ensure a fair, sustainable and accountable contribution of the private sector to the 2030 Agenda.
The SDGs themselves highlight the fact that for-profit businesses need to play an important role in achieving the world’s ambitions for 2030, and the EU, in the recently adopted European Consensus for Development, highlights the same need.
CONCORD’s paper therefore gives specific recommendations for the EU and its Member States across key policy areas. The recommendations are to:
1. Abandon the “one-size fits all” approach to the role of the private sector in development, and focus on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and social economy enterprises in local and regional value chains and trade.
2. Avoid the corporate capture of decision-making processes, including by legally binding lobby registers and stronger ethics regulations.
3. Align the financial system with social and environmental agendas, integrating environmental, social and governance factors in policy and regulatory frameworks on public and private finance.
4. Ensure the public delivery of essential services and acknowledge that private finance cannot be a substitute for gender-responsive public investment.
5. Ensure companies pay their fair share of tax where they operate by creating greater transparency and better reporting systems.
6. Ensure the sustainability chapters of investment treaties are as enforceable as the provisions protecting investors.
7. Ensure business enterprises operating outside the EU respect human rights and the environment and contribute to sustainable development.
8. Reform EU competition law and set guidelines to allow for initiatives that increase sustainability collectively per sector without breaching EU competition law.
9. Ensure the respect of development effectiveness principles in consultation with local communities and civil society organisations; integrate the principles in development finance institutions’ processes and approaches.
10. Ensure transparency and accountability when public finance is used to leverage private investments in developing countries.
The report sets out more detail for each recommendation and includes case studies highlighting both positive (including projects where CARE International has engaged with business) and negative impacts of the private sector.
Overall, the document provides a sturdy set of principles which the EU institutions and European businesses can use to ensure that the private sector has the positive impact on international development that the world needs.