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08 Jan. 2015 | Comments (0)

In a previous Giving Thoughts post, Jennifer Kim Field from the United Nations (UN) Foundation outlined the role that the private sector could play in implementing the post-2015 development agenda. Jennifer was a speaker at the November, 2014, meeting of the Global Social Investing Council, the theme of which was “Sustainable Development Goals through the Lens of Corporate Philanthropy.” A significant portion of business’s global work will be touched in some way by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and this meeting attempted to give members a better understanding of the goals and the UN more generally.

From MDGs to SDGs

In 2000, the Millennium Development Goals were created in an effort to reduce poverty around the world, and to improve prospects for the world’s most marginalized populations. As Jennifer pointed out in her post, the MDGs improved the lives of millions, particularly by reducing poverty. At the same time, however, the bold, challenging nature of the goals meant that some went unmet, and there is still more to do on the MDG agenda.

The world order has changed significantly since 2000, and our global challenges are no longer unique to the developing world. The SDGs will have broader, and in many cases deeper, implications than the MDGs. Currently, the SDGs number 17, each with many different indicators. In coming months, the goals will be discussed, refined, and in some cases combined, with the final product to be unveiled in September for ratification by the UN General Assembly.

Companies’ role

Businesses will have a significant opportunity to participate in the SDGs, as they did with the MDGs through, for example, the provision of logistics and brain power to organizations such as UNICEF, a UN program that provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries.

The power of companies’ workforces could also be capitalized on through coordinated volunteer efforts. UN Volunteers, an often invisible UN agency that is part of UN Development Program, is working to promote volunteers, including corporate volunteers, as a crucial part of the solution for achieving the SDGs. Proving the shared value of corporate volunteering will be integral to removing the barriers faced by companies seeking to provide, in particular, pro-bono and skills-based volunteering programs.

Some 7,300 UN Volunteers are at the forefront of peace and development in some of the most difficult working environments in the world, supporting the efforts of most UN agencies. The UN Volunteers team regularly collaborates with organizations promoting corporate volunteering, such as Points of Light and the International Association of Volunteer Effort.

Cash still important

This focus on volunteering, logistics and brain power is not to say that direct funding will cease to play a role—it just needs to be done in a smart and coordinated way. One current issue that is a particular example of this need is the Ebola crisis, which is desperately underfunded. The UN Foundation has created a fund for companies wishing to donate to the cause, and money will go directly to the UN’s fight against the disease.

Meanwhile, infant and child mortality, lack of good nutrition, limited education and child labor continue to be pressing issues that could benefit from direct funding. Opportunities exist for endowed foundations to contribute to UNICEF campaigns through program related investments (PRIs), which provide a return for social investments as well as a societal benefit. Such impact investing is a precisely the type of smart, coordinated funding required.

Reporting and impact

If companies are to remain critically involved in implementing the SDGs, it will be important to keep the contribution they make to creating jobs and building strong economies at the forefront of the development discourse.

Centering reporting and impact around the SDGs will help to focus companies’ attention, and the G4 corporate social responsibility reporting guidelines, issued by the Global Reporting Initiative, will help businesses track their efforts with regard to certain goals. Perhaps more significant, however, is making sure that social investing and impact-focused philanthropy gain more recognition within the CSR reporting community, which often focuses more acutely on other issues such as environmental concerns or governance issues. Corporate philanthropy is critical to the SDGs, and improving reporting on this area will help to maintain these community programs as critical efforts in companies’ CSR agendas.

Meeting details

Date November 3-5

Location United Nations, New York City


  • Paul Ladd, Head, Team on the post-2015 Development Agenda
  • Richard Dictus, Executive Coordinator, United Nations Volunteers
  • Caryl Stern, President and CEO, U.S. Fund for UNICEF
  • Gabriella Morris, Senior Vice President of the In-Kind Assistance Corporation and the UNICEF Bridge Fund
  • Victor Kisob, Director, United Nations Ebola Response Liaison Office
  • Jennifer Kim Field, Vice President, Global Partnerships, UN Foundation
  • Eric Israel, Director, Global Reporting Initiative North America
  • Jamie Garcia Alba, UN Global Compact

Business-Community Impact Symposium

Jennifer Kim Field, Vice President, Global Partnerships at the UN Foundation, will be leading a panel on the Sustainable Development Goals and the world post-2015 at The Conference Board Business-Community Impact Symposium next month. To be held at Celcius, Bryant Park, New York City on February 10-11, the symposium will showcase leading companies making measurable positive impacts, and help attendees gain the tools you need to capitalize on your company's core competencies, employees, and products to strategically tackle crucial issues. Find out more at:

About the Global Social Investing Council

The Global Social Investing Council (GSIC) advances the practice of cross-border corporate social responsibility and strategic philanthropy on a global scale through continuous dialogue on latest trends, issues and solutions encountered, as well as inspiring practices. Meeting twice per year, the GSIC boasts members from some of the world’s leading companies. For more information on joining the council, please contact Jeff Hoffman at

  • About the Author:Jeff Hoffman

    Jeff Hoffman

    Jeff Hoffman has a distinguished history working with corporations, non-profits, civic and government agencies on strategic direction and innovative programs.He leads Jeff Hoffman & Associates, a …

    Full Bio | More from Jeff Hoffman

  • About the Author:Alex Parkinson

    Alex Parkinson

    Alex Parkinson is Principal of Parky Communications, a communications agency specializing in sustainability and CSR reporting and communications. He serves as the Co-Leader of The Conference Board Cor…

    Full Bio | More from Alex Parkinson


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