The FINANCIAL -- United Nations leaders see greater collaboration and partnership with the private sector as critical to progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to a new study by the UN Global Compact and Accenture Strategy.
One hundred percent of UN leaders surveyed believe that cross-sector alliances, networks and partnerships are essential to accelerating progress on Agenda 2030, and a clear majority (59 percent) believes that business will be the critical partner in the UN’s ability to deliver the SDGs.
Launched today at the UN Global Compact in New York, the study, undertaken by Accenture Strategy, finds UN leaders realistic about the scale of the challenge. The survey of 33 UN agency heads reveals that while nearly all (91 percent) report growing interest and engagement from business on sustainability and development challenges, just one-quarter (28 percent) believe that their organization is currently doing enough to engage with the private sector.
“The United Nations is entering an exciting period of renewal, inspired by the 2030 Agenda — a universal vision for a better world that leaves no one behind,” said Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. “We need a bolder approach to financing and partnerships, with particular emphasis on local collaboration to address the needs of the most vulnerable in communities around the world. We need to innovate and rethink how we work, focusing less on process and more on results. We must create incentives for collaboration and integrated approaches that respond to the complexity of the transformation necessary for peace, sustainable development, human rights and opportunity for all people on a healthy planet.”
UN leaders believe that unlocking the full potential of cross-sector collaboration will require a new commitment to value. Fully 97 percent believe that to better engage the private sector and enhance impact on the SDGs, leaders and partnership practitioners across the system must more effectively measure, track and communicate value — but just 10 percent report that their organization always defines formal performance indicators to measure and evaluate the impact of partnerships.
“As we welcome a new era of action at the United Nations, we come together this year to pivot the United Nations and business towards deeper, strategic collaboration,” said Lise Kingo, CEO & Executive Director, UN Global Compact. “With fewer than 5,000 days remaining to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, business, Governments and civil society stand at a critical moment in the history of global development: one that demands collective effort focused on innovation, scalability and impact to address the challenges that afflict our world.”
Despite strong belief in the potential for greater collaboration, UN leaders identify several critical challenges. More than half (59 percent) report that resource constraints prompt their agency to focus on securing financial support rather than longer-term strategic partnerships, while 53 percent identify gaps in their organization’s capability to build and manage effective partnerships. Across the UN system, leaders call for a new commitment to building the resources, capabilities and cultural environment that can enable new cross-sector partnerships that can scale-up impact on global challenges.
“We know that public resources will only go so far in securing SDG achievement,” said Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Program (UNDP). “Building on UNDP’s convening power, we are committed to strengthen our partnerships with the private sector and to help support the alignment of business interests and investments with the SDGs.”
This year’s results mark a strong response from UN leaders to growing commitment and action already visible across the private sector. In the last UN Global Compact-Accenture Strategy CEO Study, 87 percent of CEOs said that the SDGs represent an essential opportunity to rethink approaches to sustainability. The survey of more than 1,000 CEOs in 108 countries across 26 industries revealed that more than two-thirds (70 percent) of CEOs see the SDGs providing business with a framework to restructure sustainability efforts, and 78 percent already see opportunities to contribute to the Global Goals through their core business.
The survey showed that nearly all CEOs (95 percent) feel a personal responsibility to ensure their company has a core purpose and role in society, and 80 percent believe that demonstrating a commitment to societal purpose is a differentiator in their industry. Importantly, fully 87 percent saw cross-sector collaboration and partnerships as the critical means to accelerate progress towards Agenda 2030 and the SDGs, presenting an opportunity to scale up partnership and collaboration across the UN system.
“Business leaders increasingly acknowledge the importance of societal purpose as a pathway to innovation and growth, and as a key differentiator in their industries,” said Peter Lacy, Senior Managing Director for Growth, Strategy and Sustainability, Accenture Strategy. “But a growing commitment to impact will require a system-wide transformation that can build new coalitions for action, drive innovation in new technologies and business models, and enable the real goal of the SDGs — enough, for all, forever.”