*NBI and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)*
30 January 2019
*WHY SHOULD BUSINESS ENGAGE WITH THE GLOBAL GOALS AGENDA?*
The global economy is trending towards one that supports a more sustainable future, featuring reduced emissions and increased social health and equity, economic prosperity and environmental well-being. In order for this future to truly materialise however, developing nations cannot be left behind in this transition. It is critical, therefore, that they play an active role in ensuring that their efforts to strengthen their economies are in line with these global trends in order to maintain their competitiveness and to influence the nature and pace of the transition to one that is inclusive.
South Africa, like many developing nations, faces extreme challenges relating to social inequality, poverty, environmental degradation, and institutional barriers in achieving a just and sustainable economic transition. In addition, defining a shared vision for this transition in a country as politically, socially and economically diverse as South Africa, presents a significant challenge. There is however, a critical need for us to engage on the topic of economic transition because currently, our economy is not likely to thrive in a global economy favouring reduced emissions and increased social and environmental well-being.
Fortunately, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or ‘Global Goals’, provide a strategic framework to guide us through a sustainable and inclusive socio-economic and environmental transition. The SDGs also call for the participation of business in the development agenda and emphasize the need for partnership across the public and private sectors, as well as between sectors of the economy and civil society. Furthermore, the global goals provide a common language that can form the basis of multi-stakeholder partnerships and collaborative efforts to achieve a range of developmental outcomes. The objectives presented in South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP) align closely to the SDGs, further strengthening their relevance to the context of development and economic transition in the country.
It is central to the NBI’s vision for a better South Africa to facilitate partnerships of this nature.
The SDGs provide a tangible roadmap to drive conversations that explore possible transition pathways with stakeholders in the private sector, government and civil society.
The NBI, together with Accenture, conducted a study entitled: ‘Re-Imagining Africa’s Future’ that modelled the value to be unlocked from sustainability across Africa, and determined a conservative number of US$350 billion a year.
The *Business and Sustainable Development Commission <nbi.cmail19.com/t/j-i-xfjdut-l-y/>* suggests that 12 systems changes could unlock US$12 trillion of value globally and 380 million jobs. The SDGs are therefore a critical risk management framework as well as a high value transition plan for South Africa.
*The key question surrounding partnerships of this nature is how, and to what extent, does the private sector choose to engage?*
The first stage of private sector engagement is to recognise the potential value to be unlocked through SDG implementation. Many forward-thinking companies in South Africa have done so already and have taken the essential first step of mapping how they impact the SDGs both positively and negatively.
This is a useful step. However, in order to foster collaboration and improved competitiveness as well as overall operating contexts, the SDGs need to act as a means of driving corporate strategy leading to innovative and significantly different, business models. Companies as well as organizations at sector level, who are early movers, are likely to be more competitive in the economies that will inevitably evolve.
The question shifts from exploring the extent of engagement to one of how to unlock maximum opportunity and scale up SDG impact for financial benefit as well as to promote a sustainable and prosperous social, ecological and economic operating context.
This process needs to happen fairly urgently. The SDG timelines run to 2030. This means there are only 12 years to radically transform our economy. The decisions that we make in the next 2 to 5 years, along with public and private commitments to action, are therefore critical. Within this timeline, a significant amount of work needs to be done, to unlock this value and realise its potential benefit.
The NBI believes that this potential value can be unlocked in two main ways:
1. Foster collaboration at national, sectoral and organisational levels and between various stakeholders to create an enabling environment where all sectors of society thrive; and
2. Provide support to companies and other organisations to enhance their competitiveness within economic contexts undergoing transition.
It is important to bear in mind however, that no individual entity can tackle all of the SDGs on their own, and neither should they. Rather they should utilize their specific skills, in partnership with others, in targeting their priority SDGs.
NBI has developed a methodology to promote SDG engagement and collaboration between sectors and companies across our membership to unearth surprising alliances and unlock value. We have also, in collaboration with *The Confederation of Danish Industry (DI), <nbi.cmail19.com/t/j-i-xfjdut-l-j/>* developed a methodology to support individual companies to engage with the SDGs with the objective of enhancing their competitiveness and sustainability in future.
The methodology helps organisations and sectors to prioritise SDGs, determine key actions to take at appropriate levels of influence (and with appropriate levels of ambition) and establish a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) framework to facilitate measurement of progress going forward. This both drives competitiveness and helps identify opportunities for collaboration areas that enhances the long terms sustainability of South Africa. The NBI maintains that doing this at a sector level is critical for scaling up impact.
The NBI is currently piloting this methodology with the Banking Association of South Africa (BASA) and with Sasol. Our intention is to run this programme with all of the sectors within our membership. Once we have sector level SDG priorities, these can then be used to build cross-sector collective action projects that really start to transform our economy and create decent and sustainable jobs.
*“[It is] essential that we take collective responsibility for the development of all nations and the improvement of the lives of all people. This responsibility is manifested in the 2030 agenda for sustainable development… Our task as global leaders is to pursue the policies that are required to turn intent into implementation and mobilize the resources that are needed to turn implementation into impact.”* *President Cyril Ramaphosa, 25th September 2018, Inaugural Speech to the UN General Assembly.*
In conclusion, with reference to president Cyril Ramaphosa’s quote: Our aim at the NBI is to *“…turn intent into implementation and … implementation into impact.”*
*If you would like to participate in a sector process, comment on our thinking, contribute your thinking or receive more information, please contact: GeetaM@nbi.org.za <GeetaM@nbi.org.za?subject=NBI%20and%20the%20SDGs>or visit our newly revamped SDGs web page for access to a range of SDG resources here: NBI Website. <www.nbi.org.za/focus-areas/integrating-strategic-projects/sustainable-development-goals-implementation-2/>*
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