By Byron Mutingwende
The private sector has been urged to foster corporate social responsibility (CSR) so as to spearhead sustainable development.
In his address to private sector players on 22 June 2018 at a meeting on promoting sustainable development, Bishow Parajuli, the United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator for Zimbabwe urged the business community to play a part in ending poverty, hunger, inequality, and promote justice, peace, gender equality, good health, quality education, jobs, innovation, environmental protection and strong partnership as espoused in the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
“Partnerships are critical for the implementation of the SDGs and the United Nations recognises that partnerships come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and operate at all levels, from local to global. The SDGs are ambitious and interrelated goals, as such the public sector, the United Nations and civil society are critical but not sufficient. In that realm, the SDGs should be central to business activity because it eventually leads to sustainable profits. The private sector is not only a source of financing, but is also an actor in development.
“Its role, especially when motivated by long-term sustainability interests, lies in core operations and the wide impact of business, and relates directly to United Nations values, poverty eradication and the spectrum of issue areas covered by the SDGs,” Parajuli said.
He underscored the fact that business can become a bigger player in the ongoing effort to turn-around the economy by tackling climate change, and ending poverty through, for example, engagement in value addition like agro industry processing to improve food and nutrition security.
This dynamic role of Private Sectors as a driver of sustainable economic growth brings with it opportunities not only in value creation but also important responsibilities for incorporating social and environmental sustainability.
Parajuli said the most direct route to innovation, technological advances and productive capacity is through a healthy, engaged private sector which appreciates development challenges of the country.
Analysts argue that an inclusive discussion format, involving business in national development plans, is taking place in Zimbabwe. The UN, together the office of the President and Cabinet has been conducting multi-stakeholder SDG advocacy initiatives. It therefore becomes an opportune time to engage business and sign it up to the United Nations Global Compact’s Local Networks that is being set-up.
“To be considered credible partners for SDGs, private sector should be transparent with regard to social and environmental impact, be accountable for how their activities create or deplete value for society, and report on what they are doing to improve performance. Together with the Office of the President and Cabinet, the UN launched a dialogue on Human Development and climate change. The report has economic scope for private sector to make business case.
“As witnessed today through the presence of the honourable Minister and the constant message of the President on “Zimbabwe is Open for Business”, the Government and private sector should continue to engage in a collaborative approach for SDGs, respecting and valuing the roles and capacities of one another,” Parajuli added.
In that regard the Government, which plays a leading role in the SDG implementation, can put policy measures in place to incentivise greater implementation of voluntary sustainability regimes. These include tax breaks, access to export credits, promotion of best practices in the realm of sustainability, and integration and prioritisation of sustainability criteria within transparent procurement tender contracts.
He added that a green industry framework can entail financial incentives; alignment with international standards and norms; waste management systems; and support for resource productivity.
The private sector was urged to take responsibility for the environmental and social impact of their actions, above and beyond what is required by legislation and regulation.
There is an emerging consensus that the private sector will need to provide the bulk of innovative sustainable development financing. Government can set conditions for dependable and fair access to credit for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in order for them to be able to meet sustainability criteria, while meeting their economic return.
On the other hand the private sector entities should provide clear, accurate triple bottom line – economic, social and environmental – information about their operations to facilitate the workings of private sustainability finance.
Non-traditional financial sectors must also be considered as potential sources of financing for sustainable development processes, including the philanthropic sector, corporate foundations, and impact investors.
“In the meantime, Official Development Assistance (ODA) remains a critical financing source for extreme poverty eradication, especially in least developed countries and countries in special situations. Currently, the United Nations is delivering over USD 400 million annually to in a form of different development projects, accounting for 62% of ODA to Zimbabwe in poverty reduction, food security, social services, governance, gender and HIV,” Parajuli said.
In the final analysis, the private sector is the perfect advocate for resilient thinking because of its direct relationship with customers, suppliers and everyone in between. The United Nations System in Zimbabwe is calling on the private sector to align strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and take actions that advance societal goals.
“By committing to sustainability, business can take shared responsibility for achieving a better Zimbabwe. A private sector committed to disaster risk reduction can steer public demand towards materials, systems and technological solutions to build and run resilient communities.