Corporate Sector in Localizing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Venue: Boardroom – Mayfair Convention Centre, Jayadev Vihar

The SDGs need businesses, businesses need the SDGs. The SDGs can be achieved only with inordinate levels of private finance and the business and management skills of the private sector. Aglobal report of the Business & Sustainability Development Commission identifies a $12 trillion market for achieving just four of the 2030 goals-food and agriculture, cities (investments such as housing, transportation, and water), energy and materials, and health and well-being—that would produce 380 million jobs. Majority of experts thus feel that factoring the SDGs into business strategies will open new business opportunities, and introduce efficiencies and innovation. Corporations have to go beyond the business case because, at times, the business interest and the sustainability interest could be in conflict. Hence, companies should align their core business strategies with the SDGs and work with others toward a system-level change.

However, as there is uneven growth in Odisha, with greatest poverty concentrated in the rural areas, especially among the tribals, and among women, SDGs’ success depends on their localization at the lowest tier of government,i.e., the Gram Panchayats. This requires convergence of efforts by various stakeholders. While GoI and Government of Odisha have a macroeconomic role in creating inclusive growth, it needs supplementation by micro-initiatives of other actors, especially private corporations and CSOs. It is a welcome development that private corporations are now mandatorily required by Companies Act, Section 135, to spend a stipulated part of their profit on development of their areas of operation.

To take the example of agriculture, while the government can work twoards improving policies and regulations; the big companies can invest in research to improve seeds and other inputs and agricultural practices; and help small local companies in supporting small farmers and cooperatives to reduce waste and adapt new technology. As another example, the possibilities stemming from public-private partnership in energy are substantial. The government can engage with private companies in investing in solutions in health, education, water and sanitation, and financial inclusion.  While improving the economic and social policies and regulations of the State, such collaborations can help companies understand and navigate local environments and compete for opportunities, thereby contributing to their competitiveness.

Proposed Discussion Points:

  • What mechanisms exist at state level in Odisha to coordinate amongst and converge the social sector initiatives of the government, corporate groups, and CSOs?
  • What are the other relevant models and best practices for such convergence, from outside the state, which can be beneficially adapted for Odisha?
  • How can the SDG framework be integrated into these existing/potential convergence models?
  • What has been the record of corporate involvement in furthering the SDG agenda in Odisha so far? Which bottlenecks undermine their greater participation and how can these be addressed?
  • Has there been any effort/s at mapping resources and competencies of all the relevant actors to forge effective and sustainable development cooperation in Odisha while preventing duplication?
  • Are there particular SDGs that evoke greater interest among corporate actors in Odisha, thereby creating potential for early intervention and eventual scaling up?