Institute for Business in the Global Context

Where the World of Business Meets the World

Tag: UN Sustainable Development Goals

How Companies Can Champion Sustainable Development

Given political climates around the world and a new wariness around international cooperation, the private sector could find itself in the hot seat: trying to pick up the slack on big issues from climate change to sustainable development. This demand for taking on a larger role may come not only from advocacy and watchdog groups but also from customers, investors, partners, and employees.

Read the full piece from Dean Chakravorti in the Harvard Business Review

“The Inclusive Innovators” – Business & the SDGs

by Bhaskar Chakravorti

Read “The Inclusive Innovators: 10 Questions | 20 Business Leaders | 17 Sustainable Development Goals”

Inclusive business — the pursuit of opportunities in traditionally unattractive or currently unprofitable market segments – is, increasingly, a strategic imperative for companies. Foregoing such segments could mean opening the door to disruption and closing it to options for future growth; this is an especially crucial concern that relates to developing economies, which represent the world’s faster-growth markets over the long-term. The idea of inclusion encompasses being inclusive of future generations and, by extension, underscores the need for responsible stewardship of the environment, natural resources and supply chains. In other words, sustainability is integral to inclusive business.

Inclusive InnovatorsIn light of many of the dramatic political developments of 2016, such as the Brexit vote and the U.S. presidential elections, we can expect that governments of advanced economies will scale back their investments in international cooperation and global sustainable development, in favor of focusing on job creation at home. This will heighten the expectations from other sectors – the private sector, in particular – to step in and help fill the void. Pursuing business-as-usual objectives in parallel with inclusive business will require new models of innovation and partnership with other sectors. When successful, such “inclusive innovators” can pave the way for global growth, development and inclusive prosperity.

In January of 2016, the United Nations initiated a new global agenda leading up to 2030 through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) launched in the fall of 2015. Unlike their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs consider the private sector as an essential participant in the process. The initiation of these new goals presents businesses and other sectors with a unique opportunity to expand the cadre of inclusive innovators who can accelerate progress on sustainable development worldwide.

This report is the outcome of a year-long in‐depth research effort involving over 20 global companies spanning a broad range of industries, conducted by The Fletcher School at Tufts University. It is part of Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context research and conference initiative on inclusive growth.

The report is the third in a series. The first report, “Growth for Good or Good for Growth,” analyzes the drivers and barriers affecting the practice of inclusive business activities within a wide range of businesses; the second report, “Inclusion Inc.” shared perspectives on operationalizing these activities and outcomes of live problem-solving in a major conference held at The Fletcher School. “The Inclusive Innovators”, the third report of the series, applies the strategies, lessons, and insights from 20 well known global companies to identify ways in which businesses can leverage the SDGs to join sustainable business with sustainable development, as well as address several of the challenges that would need to be overcome.

We hope you will read critically, ask your own questions, challenge what needs to be challenged, and continue the discussion. Most significantly, we expect that this process shall have a positive impact on the actions that businesses and their partners take to improve the state of an increasingly fragile and divided world.

Read “The Inclusive Innovators: 10 Questions | 20 Business Leaders | 17 Sustainable Development Goals”

How data promotes transparency and helps clean up “SDG-washing”

Performance data is often the best detergent for cleaning up SDG-washing. When companies make tangible commitments to the SDGs, and progress and outcomes can be tracked using objective metrics, there is an opportunity for external observers to evaluate the company’s actions and for company management to allocate resources and execute. If the SDGs are to be co-opted by a company’s branding department, we should have mechanisms to hold them accountable – with data on hand.

Read the full op-ed from Dean Chakravorti in The Guardian

As the global economy slows, how can sustainable development remain a priority?

The summer is heating up with reminders that the first anniversary of the launch of the 2030 Agenda is not far – and when it comes to implementing sustainable development worldwide, time passes rather quickly. The high level political forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development is convening in New York, the first since the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It comes hot on the heels of businesses being reminded by Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, at the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit in New York on June 22, who told those assembled that: “All businesses, everywhere, can and should play a role in improving our world.” He also added: “That starts with integrity – doing business right.”

Read the full op-ed from Dean Chakravorti in The Guardian

Investing in The Sustainable Development Goals In A Time of Anti-Globalization And Economic Slowdown

No doubt, the global economy is going through a period of several overlapping challenges. In some parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, these may seem like the worst of times – at least in the last 17 years. However, with far-sighted leadership and some imagination, the worst of times may well turn out to be the best of times.

Read the full op-ed from Dean Chakravorti in Forbes

Sustainable Business and Sustainable Development: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Given that 2030 is not that far, when one considers the magnitude of the [UN Sustainable Development] goals, it is worthwhile asking, which of the many stakeholders can maintain the momentum? Whose incentives are most closely aligned with achieving the goals and who has the resources to execute at scale across countries?

The answer is unavoidable: global business, as a stakeholder group, is best positioned to take the lead.

Read the full op-ed from Dean Chakravorti at The Guardian

10 Questions: Is Growth for Good also Good for Growth?

Growth - CroppedCompanies often view the social challenges that surround business opportunities – poverty, poor sanitation, loose governance structures – through the lens of corporate social responsibility (CSR) or philanthropy. But today, as economic growth in emerging markets has begun to outpace the growth of supporting institutions and infrastructure, many of these “contextual gaps” have begun to pose real threats to long-term business success. To reframe how business is done in these contexts, companies must consider how sustainable and inclusive business activities are becoming what’s good for business.

Learn more about our research on this topic:


As part of our “10 Questions” Series, we delve into hard questions of international business not easily answered by a single book, class, discipline, or school of thought. They herald a future where the world and the world of business are ever more interconnected, where decisions can’t be made in a bubble, where real expertise demands deep ‘contextual intelligence.’ This series reflects that contextual intelligence we cultivate in our students in the MIB program.

What Businesses Need to Know About Sustainable Development Goals

The UN General Assembly held its regular meeting in New York this fall. But this year its purpose was different – and with significant implications for the future of the human condition. More than 190 member countries committed to “eliminate poverty in all its forms everywhere” by 2030, together with 16 other “big, hairy, audacious goals” — to use Jim Collins’ memorable phrase. Coming out of the meeting, the hashtag #2030Now, meant to drum up ground-level support, made a combined total of more than 1.6 billion impressions on Twitter and Instagram and was the top trending topic in the U.S. during the assembly. Cultural icons from Shakira to Queen Rania of Jordan were brought in to lend a certain pizzazz to the goals’ rollout.

Read the full op-ed from Dean Chakravorti in the Harvard Business Review

“The UN’s new goals could trigger a burst of innovation in sustainable development” by Bhaskar Chakravorti

Why, you might ask, should the private sector — with shareholder returns to worry about — get involved in lofty U.N. initiatives? First, the private sector contributes 60 percent of global GDP and 90 percent of the jobs, and may be better positioned to accomplish many of the goals because of better reach and resources. Second, if achieving some of the goals also helps achieve shareholder interests, the U.N. summit could result in a fresh burst of innovation and creative finance.

Read the full op-ed from Dean Chakravorti in The Washington Post