The SDGs explicitly mention the importance of the private sector in realizing the ambitious Agenda 2030. The SDG document adopted by all 193 UN member countries states that “private business activities, investment and innovation are major drivers of productivity, inclusive economic growth and job creation”.
What is often overlooked is that engaging the private sector has the potential to advance the SDGs in two ways – (1) generating the jobs and incomes needed to overcome poverty which is broadly acknowledged, and (2) leveraging the private sector’s experience, capabilities, and resources to achieve development at scale clearly recognizing that the resources and expertise of public actors are insufficient to address the complex global development challenge.
Participants of the Belgrade meeting came from Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Hungary, Romania, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia. They agreed that both the private sector and employers’ organisations should get involved in making the SDGs a reality since it is fundamentally the right thing to do. SDGs are not only good for business in a long term perspective, they are good business if the public development agencies and the private sector form alliances to realize innovative economic, social, or environmental solutions at scale. All Employers Associations agreed that companies have to mainstream sustanability into core business strategies rather than aiming at ad hoc engagments. Otherwise firms will miss the opportunity to become relevant partners and to make a contribution to achieving the SDG goals.
As the funding gap for making the SDGs happen is still massive, the meeting also dedicated time to discuss innovative funding mechanisms like blended finance, PPPs, or crowd funding as options for commercially sound business projects with positive social and environmental impacts.
Case studies from companies already aligning their business strategies with the SDGs demonstrated their impressive social and environmental awareness. For example, the renown Serbian company Delta Holding which recently won an award as the country’s most socially responsible enterprise, trains all suppliers on Corporate Social Responsibility and the SDGs, modern production methods and energy efficiency.
Emloyers’ Organisations also used the meeting to develop a blueprint for the engagment in the SDG agenda that included capacity building and knowledge sharing on sustanability initatives linked to the 2030 agenda, potential services to members supporting their sustanability efforts and an appropriate advocacy agenda relating to SDGs.