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Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies: the role of business
18 July 2018

Here are some key takeaways from the government voluntary national reviews issued by governments regarding the role that the private sector is playing in the achievement of the SDGs.

There is no doubt that businesses are key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As every year since 2013, representatives from countries, businesses and NGOs have gathered in New York to participate in the high-level political forum on sustainable development (HLPF).

​During the 2018 meeting, which began on 9 July, 46 countries presented their voluntary national reviews (VNR). These country-driven analyses are an evaluation on progress and a reflection on experiences, successes, challenges and lessons learned, regarding the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  

Private sector and SDG implementation

If we are to reach the SDGs, there is a need for action from all types of actors. So GRI welcomes the development that close to 40% of the countries mention the contribution of the private sector to national SDG strategies. Almost all countries included the private sector into the review process and consulted business representatives for the preparation of their national report. This highlights the fact that it has now become common practice for government to include all stakeholders, which comprise businesses, into assessing SDG progress. 

The reports of five countries – Ecuador, Greece, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, contain a specific section on the private sector, and how it is helping further the SDGs. Scores others have included examples of sustainable business conduct and sustainability practice. Another welcome development is the increasing recognition of the role of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in sustainable development, with 40% of countries also taking measures to empower SMEs in the realization of specific SDGs. 

One country, Colombia, has started analyzing business data, looking to understand the overall impact and contribution of the private sector in the country to the SDGs. It engaged in joint efforts with UNDP Colombia and GRI to facilitate the collection of SDG-related business data that is reported according to the GRI Standards and included this information in their national report.

Final notes

While the focus of the reviews is quite diverse – as are the SDGs – 13 countries provide information on SDG target 12.6, related to sustainability and reporting. This target seeks to “encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and integrate sustainability into their reporting cycles.”

As the HLPF wraps up, there is a need to reflect on how to continue incorporating the efforts of businesses of any size and anywhere in the world, to accelerate the transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies.