18 students from 4 universities (Sciences Po Paris, SIPA Columbia, Hertie School of Governance, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy) following the SDG Certificate debated this question with representatives from companies, cooperatives, AFD and Proparco.
As explained by the President of Crédit Cooperatif and Cooperatives Europe Jean-Louis Bancel, reaching the SDGs is the international community’s objective but the way this goal is achieved matters greatly and depends on how its actors will work towards them. Companies have a key role to play in this regard through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Thankfully, the way companies operate is changing profoundly according to Victor Friedberg (FoodShotGlobal), in part because “most companies that have been created recently were started for a purpose and are determined to keep their core values as they scale up”. But big companies, through their increased focus on CSR, are also driving this revolution. That’s what Jean-Christophe Laugée (Director, Social Innovation and Sustainable Development, Danone) calls the CSR or "Common Sense Revolution", driven by consumers’ increasing willingness to buy products that are produced in a sustainable way.
A movement that benefits companies in many ways, not only because the private sector and consumers’ long-term interest for a sustainable world are the same but also, according to Amaury Mulliez (Duputy CEO, Proparco), because the values and constraints associated with CSR have proven to make businesses succeed on the long-term.
If companies are adopting new practices, financial institutions are also changing the way they operate. Because of their transformative impact on society and the economy, Laurent Biddiscombe (Deputy Director, Financial Institutions, AFD) believes that this will have just as important an impact on the SDGs.
That's why Proparco is committed to further helping companies improve their environmental & social practices.
To continue reading about the role of the private sector to reach the SDGs, please visit the Private Sector and Development blog.