Companies Have Unique Contributions to Bring to the Table

In this Q&A, Mogens Lykketoft, President of the 70th UN General Assembly, shares his perspective on partnerships as a means to achieve the Global Goals.
Jul 14, 2016 9:00 AM ET
Campaign: The TBL Quarterly
Mogens Lykketoft, President, the UN General Assembly Twitter: @UN_PGA

This article was featured in the latest issue of Novo Nordisk’s sustainability …

What are your hopes for partnerships in relation to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals?
The international community committed in 2015 to the most ambitious global agenda to date – the Sustainable Development Agenda – aiming to end poverty and ensure prosperity, peace and a sustainable planet for all by 2030. This, alongside the ambitious Paris Agreement on climate change, will depend in great part on effective multistakeholder partnerships, because this enormous task can only be achieved with the business sector and others on board.

Stakeholders have already come together – Every Women Every Child, Sustainable Energy for All, the Ebola Private Sector Mobilization Group, to name but a few. I have hope that stakeholders will recognise the opportunity to build on past successes, to strengthen and scale up these partnerships, and to create even more in order to implement the far-reaching global goals.

What opportunities can the United Nations provide in this area?
The UN has been steadily improving its capacity to forge and facilitate multi-stakeholder partnerships – especially engaging the private sector. Goal 17 of the Sustainable Development Agenda specifically calls upon governments to encourage and promote effective public-private and civil society partnerships, engaging all sectors. To help with this within the UN, the UN Global Compact acts as a portal for the private sector to pledge principles and locate UN partners or initiatives with which the private sector can engage.

Numerous other UN entities are fostering multi-stakeholder partnerships on health, energy, transport, climate action, gender equality and governance, among other issues, as well as when working with big data, technology and other crosscutting tools. UN forums also offer opportunities to share best practices, such as the annual Global Partnership Forum, the Partnership Exchange and the High Level Political Forum. Into the future, the UN can become even better at helping partners connect to change the world.

What do you consider to be the main role of the private sector?
Each company is unique. Each has comparative contributions to bring to any multi-stakeholder coalition. A company’s unique contribution can run the gamut from technical expertise to distributive capacity, from financing leverage to communications bandwidth and much more. That is the tremendous value of partnerships.

Small enterprises have, for example, very specific experience and the potential to create inclusive growth in developing countries. Multi-national companies have such a big outreach that their behaviour – and thus also improvements in their practices – can create impact at scale.

Equal to what a company does, however, is how the private sector conducts its own business – individually and collectively. I applaud the partnerships that support the private sector in integrating sustainable development principles into business practices all along the value chain – which goes far beyond simply adopting a CSR strategy. Equally impressive are partnerships that aim to transform entire sectors. This sort of contribution by the private sector – real transformation – is needed to achieve the sustainable development goals.

These commitments better position a company and a sector for the transformation underway. Markets are increasingly driven by principles of social and environmental responsibility – voluntarily by some companies but also on the regulatory side. You can see this for example in the financial sector, where climate as well as environmental and social risks are more and more integrated in investment decisions. Forward looking companies embrace this trend.