Bringing business into the conversation on sustainable development

IIED has launched a new series of blogs and interviews exploring how business and investors are contributing to sustainable development.

News, 18 November 2019
Profit with purpose: the role of business in achieving sustainable development
A series of blogs and interviews exploring how business and investors can contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals
A handful of seedlings

From community nurseries to multinational corporations: businesses of all sizes can contribute to sustainable development (Photo: K. Traumann/CGIAR Climate)

IIED's new blog series looks at how businesses and investors are increasingly connecting with the sustainable development agenda. It explores the challenges and opportunities faced by business and investors as they start to look at delivering positive social and environmental impacts alongside financial returns. 

The series is part of IIED's work to promote new ways of working and new alliances in order to address global development and environmental challenges.

From impact investing to green bonds

The series launched with a discussion between the head of IIED's Shaping Sustainable Markets research group, Laura Kelly, and Chris West, director of financial management firm Sumerian Partners

West was previously senior environment adviser at the UK Department for International Development and director of the Shell Foundation. He is a partner in Sumerian Partners, which manages investment capital to deliver measurable and lasting social impact in Africa, Asia and Latin America. He and Kelly talk about the growth of impact investing – investments that aim to generate beneficial social or environmental impacts alongside financial returns.

West also notes that businesses are increasingly reporting on how their activities are contributing to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

The next blog looks at the rise of green bonds – investments whose proceeds are specifically earmarked for climate and environmental projects. Pernille Holtedahl, of the firm Blue Maia, reviews the rise of the green bond market and suggests this shift is part of a wider transition – with both businesses and individuals seeking positive impacts for their investments.

Coming next will be an article by the former head of sustainability at leading British retailer Marks & Spencer, Mike Barry, who will look at how to be a sustainable business leader. Based on discussions with more than 100 business people, Barry will set out ten points that businesses need to address during the next decade.

David Croft, global head of sustainability at British multinational Reckitt Benckiser Group plc (RB), which manufactures health and hygiene products and employs some 40,000 people worldwide, will also contribute to the series. Croft will make the point that everyone is a global citizen, and everyone has a contribution to make if we are going to achieve the SDGs. Croft will stress that businesses are global citizens as well, and as such have their role to play.

Finding new ways of working 

The blog series highlights IIED's work to engage with investors and businesses, to explore how they can contribute to achieving the SDGs, reduce inequalities and shape more sustainable markets.

The issue of unsustainable markets was one of five challenges identified in IIED's new strategy, entitled Make Change Happen

IIED believes that to address the five challenges – unsustainable markets; increasing inequality; the climate crisis; the assault on the natural world; and increasing urban risk – organisations need to find new ways of working and to forge new alliances between civil society, business and governments.

IIED has also recently launched a new series of 'Insights' publications, aimed primarily at business readers and looking at environment and development challenges and the business community.