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Towards a sustainable economy: private sector

This report argues that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN Financing for Development process, and the Paris Agreement have opened up a dialogue between NGOs, governments and the private sector about the opportunities and risks around the transition to a sustainable economy.

Burundi woman with sunflowers

This report is based on case studies from Christian Aid’s programmatic and advocacy work undertaken with the support of the private sector. It looks at emerging models of change that, in the shift to a sustainable economy, will be of interest to the business community.

The private sector

The private sector in all its diversity – small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), cooperatives and multinational enterprises (MNEs) – is integral to this shift towards economic sustainability.

Businesses are already recognising the value of inclusive business models and the opportunitities of aligning their businesses with aspects of environmental and social sustainability.

However, businesses also recognise that there are significant global risks that must be addressed. Global risk assessments highlight the need for business to have greater accountability and take greater responsibility on issues such as severe income disparity, climate change, taxation, modern day slavery, land rights and natural resource rights.

This report argues that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN Financing for Development process, and the Paris Agreement have opened up a dialogue between NGOs, governments and the private sector about the opportunities and risks around the transition to a sustainable economy.

The first section of the report addresses some of the most promising business opportunities, and the second addresses some of the most urgent risks to global development, particularly in relation to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, but also other models of dialogue with stakeholders and governments.

Case studies

The case studies that follow demonstrate ways to contribute to the transition towards a sustainable economy, through examples of inclusive business models:

  • models that explicitly aim to benefit the community
  • social enterprises and cooperatives in which decision-making power is not based on capital ownership
  • identification of joint opportunities for linking MNE supply chains with domestic SMEs
  • facilitation of technology that can connect agriculture value chains with distributors and consumers.

Addressing global risks

The following measures can address global risks, through increased business accountability and dialogue:

  • shifting energy use away from fossil fuels to investment in renewables
  • developing a responsible tax policy, and publishing country-by-country tax reporting as evidence
  • making public statements about tackling modern day slavery in supply chains through commitments and transparency
  • conducting human rights risk assessments, based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.