10 key principles for private sector impact towards the Sustainable Development Goals

by 28th Nov 2017
The Living Blue cooperative supported by CARE in Bangladesh (Principle 1: focus on micro, small and medium enterprises and social economy enterprises) The Living Blue cooperative supported by CARE in Bangladesh (Principle 1: focus on micro, small and medium enterprises and social economy enterprises)

A new report from CONCORD highlights 10 key principles which European political and financial institutions and companies need to follow to ensure that the private sector delivers positive development impacts as part of the drive towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

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.

Gerry Boyle

Gerry led CARE International UK’s policy analysis and advocacy around value chains and dignified work. He originally joined CARE as the Senior Policy Adviser on Private Sector Engagement. With the advent of our new Global Programme Strategy which put a particular emphasis on women’s economic empowerment, his focus changed a little.

Gerry co-chaired the Bond Private Sector Working Group. Immediately before he joined CARE he worked for Oxfam as Head of Business Relations for about three years, but the vast majority of his career was spent as a management consultant including being a consulting Partner at Deloitte, where for a time he led Deloitte UK’s Consumer Business consulting practice, serving many major multinationals. Gerry's original degree was in Law from Oxford University, and in 2008 when he left Deloitte he did an MSc in Philosophy and Public Policy at LSE.

One good thing I've read

Amartya Sen’s Development as Freedom. It provides a framework for many people’s modern understanding of what is development, based on a profoundly human-centred approach rather than anything instrumental. And to check whether one personally is doing enough to fight poverty, I recommend Peter Singer’s The life you can save: Acting now to end world poverty – it’s very clear and easy to read but very challenging! Finally, Ha-Joon Chang’s Bad Samaritans: Rich nations, poor policies, and the threat to the developing world is a very readable guide to economic development which argues strongly against many of the prevailing orthodoxies.

Twitter: @gerryboyle10