This blog was originally posted in Danish in Altinget on April 20, 2018. To view it there, click here
By Camilla Brückner, Director, UNDP Nordic Representation Office
In 2015, all UN member states agreed on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), formulating the planet's greatest environmental and social challenges and needs. More and more companies are increasingly viewing these goals as a lever for innovation, growth and increased competitiveness. But why is the private sector relevant for UNDP's work on the SDGs? And why do we think that Danish companies can play a decisive role in creating sustainable development in the countries of the world?
Better business, better world
According to the OECD, on average the private sector accounts for 90 percent of all jobs, 80 percent of all capital flows and 60 percent of gross domestic product in the world's developing countries. If we are to move towards a more sustainable world It is therefore crucial that the private sector act in a sustainable and inclusive way, considering the environment and involving the world's poor as employees, recipients of products and services or as subcontractors.
The SDGs can play a central role in this process as they provide the private sector with a key to developing and implementing business-driven solutions that address the world's sustainability challenges. As an example, the Danish company BLUETOWN seeks to increase internet availability in developing countries. They set up solar powered parabolic masts in remote areas, primarily in Africa and India, thereby providing distant communities an opportunity to access the internet at affordable prices. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) estimates that today 52 percent of the world's population lack internet access, and as such this solution will help local health clinics drastically and reduce error diagnoses by up to 80 percent.
By focusing on realizing individual companies’ potential and operationalizing the SDGs in specific business models and products, Danish companies can have a share in the US$ 12 trillion in market opportunities that the achievement of the SGDs is estimated to generate according to the Business & Sustainable Development Commission.
In collaboration with The Danish Industry Foundation, UNDP has created the SDG Accelerator – a programme offering a number of small and medium-sized Danish industrial companies assistance in creating new business models based on the SDGs, which in turn is to serve as inspiration for other Danish and foreign companies. The project is intended to show that the SDGs can generate business solutions while driving sustainable growth.
The innovation journey begins in Denmark
The beginning of this journey takes place in Denmark, an obvious choice for UNDP as the Danish private sector has a high maturity level in terms of sustainability engagement. This is due to, among other things, the democratic systems and leadership cultures in the Nordic countries as well as traditions of cooperation, partnerships and involvement of stakeholders that promote cooperative approaches to business.
Danish positions of strength such as efficient food production, health technology and waste, water and energy solutions are furthermore examples of sectors in which UNDP sees a lot of potential in relation to the SDGs. Several companies in the programme are working in these sectors. For instance, Desmi Ro-Clean will use its oil collection expertise to find innovative solutions to the problem of plastic pollution in Asian rivers. With the adoption of the SDGs, the demand for sustainable solutions has been formalized, materialized and increased worldwide. It provides outstanding opportunities for the Danish business community - opportunities that require focused efforts.
Furthermore, the aim is that the project should inspire other companies to move in the same direction in Denmark as well as in other countries. The Danish frontrunner position should not bring about a standstill.
For this reason, we are working closely with the Danish companies. The sooner the companies get started, the better Denmark can become a pioneer country for innovation and help generating new business opportunities that can drive the achievement of the SDGs – at both national and international levels.