By Cai U. Ordinaro & Catherine N. Pillas
Investing in innovations and new business models that will help countries attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) makes good business sense, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
In a speech at the 45th Annual Membership Meeting of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), UNDP Philippines Resident Representative Ola Almgren said businesses can contribute a lot to meeting the SDGs or Global Goals in 2030.
“The challenge for the private sector is to move toward inclusive and sustainable business models—going beyond the concept of philanthropy and voluntary corporate social responsibility—without undermining profitability,” Almgren said.
“We believe that within businesses themselves, solutions lie in innovation, new business models and the right leadership,” he added.
Almgren said the costs of meeting the SDGs are high, and it is only through partnerships within and among governments, private sector, academe and other stakeholders can the goals be achieved.
He said the unmet investment needs of the SDGs are estimated at $3 trillion to $7 trillion per year in developing countries alone.
But more than addressing the financing needs, Almgren said the SDGs can improve the way businesses operate, particularly in achieving their own goals to sustain their profits.
“To me it is essential to see sustainable development as actually linked to the core business strategy of a corporation. Sustainability of profit over time is linked to sustainability of our environment, our natural resources and development for the people who make up the work force and customers of a corporation,” Almgren said.
As an organization, PBSP intends to respond to this call by crafting specific projects that will be geared toward attaining specific SDGs or their indicators.
PBSP Executive Director Rafael C. Lopa said many of PBSP’s projects through the years have addressed not only specific Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) but sustainable development concerns.
The SDGs are composed of 17 goals and 169 targets. The first six goals are related to the eight MDGs and the rest include goals that aim to address climate change and overall sustainable development.
“We agreed to meet up again to precisely figure out how to converge our efforts. As we presented in our report, PBSP is really actively convening stakeholders around very specific societal concerns. And a lot of them are in the SDGs,” Lopa said.
“We’re involved in, of course, education, we’re also involved in water, we’re involved in tuberculosis control, in maternal-child care, these are very concrete advocacies that are falling in line with the SDGs,” he added.
The Philippine government is currently working with the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) to develop a framework for identifying inclusive business (IB) companies and their accreditation.
The IB model refers to core business models of commercially viable companies that provide, in scale, solutions to the problems of poor and low-income communities.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said this is in keeping with the government’s goal of strengthening micro, small and medium enterprises, and increasing job opportunities for the poor.
Firms that will qualify may get fiscal and nonfiscal incentives.
The ADB has earlier extended a loan of $250 million to the DTI for the project.
Trade Secretary Adrian S. Cristobal Jr. said the government is keen on piloting the IB model in a number of business sectors, including manufacturing.
The SDGs aim to end poverty and hunger; promote universal health; education for all and lifelong learning; achieve gender equality; sustainable water management; ensure sustainable energy for all; decent work for all; resilient infrastructure; and reduce income inequality between and among countries.
Signatories have also pledged to create sustainable cities; ensure sustainable consumption and production; take action against climate change; conserve and sustainably use oceans and marine resources; reduce biodiversity loss; achieve peaceful and inclusive societies; and revitalize global partnership for development.
The government considered financial constraints as among the key challenges of the country in attaining the SDGs.
This prompted the government to draw up a financial plan for funding the SDGs.
Issues on availability and timeliness of data for goal monitoring also pose a challenge to achieving the goals. Data is crucial, given that the SDGs could have over 400 indicators.
National statistician Lisa Grace S. Bersales earlier told the BusinessMirror that the Philippine Statistical System may require private-sector help to address data gaps on several of the SDGs.
She said this is due to the lack of disaggregated data for many of the SDGs, as well as data on highly scientific indicators.
Last year National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Assistant Director General Rosemarie Edillon said the country must put in place periodic targets to enable the government to implement measures that will make it easier to meet the goals.
Neda Social Development Staff Director Erlinda Capones also said the country needs to address the challenge posed by the devolution of certain social services, which was a major consideration in setting accountabilities for the MDGs.