How to effectively engage the private sector in sustainable development


I have recently returned to BC after my graduate studies in International Development at the London School of Economics. I am keen to meet like-minded people working on development issues at UBC and am interested in forming a team for this challenge.

The issue I would like to tackle is how to effectively engage the private sector in sustainable development.  Some starter ideas could include CSR programs, investment opportunities, ethical trade policies/practice and so on.  I’d love to hear your ideas. Give me a shout if you’re interested 🙂


Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Sina Shahandeh (Organizer) on February 20, 2012 at 1:09pm

The ideas of creating a social enterprise for sustainable development has been gaining lots of attention (in academia specifically). I guess the idea here is how to take a current corporation and “make” them to address their corporate responsibility and pay more attention to sustainable development. Do we have some examples for successful attempts?

Permalink Reply by Tanya Smith on February 23, 2012 at 12:59pm

Hi Sina,

Yes exactly! I have been doing some work over the years on CSR programs related to metal procurement used in coinage. The Royal British Mint is the first mint in the world to sign on to the Social Accountability 8000 rule enforced by the Social Accountability International (SAI) organisation. The Canadian Mint is due to release it’s CSR program any day. While CSR programs in general have their problems (i.e. enforceability, voluntary participation, etc) – they are a good tool in achieving corporate accountability and transparency while engaging the powerful capacity of the private sector.

Apart from CSR programs, I have worked on partnerships between private organisations and the Canadian government in delivering foreign aid. Since 2005 these partnerships have changed in number and character but I believe that these aid partnerships offer another entry point for effective private sector involvement in sustainable development. For this challenge, it could mean looking at a particular parternship/s in aid delivery to a specific project, program or country and determining how it can be used as a model for other collaborations. Areas to review would be effectiveness (for who?), incentive structures, sustainability, and so forth.

Just some ideas…

Permalink Reply by Abdul Baset Muqeet on March 3, 2012 at 7:42pm

While completing an internship at Grameen Shakti in 2010, I found businesses which seemed to be working in this exact idea. Shakti specialized in microfinancing renewable energy technologies to meet energy requirements of low-income Bangladeshis and address rural infrastructure development in Bangladesh. This was highly successful as presently Bangladesh lacks the infrastructure and electricity grid to reach out to its large population of over 160 million. This program is continuing to grow as there have been over 400,000 stand alone photovoltaic systems and 10,000 biogas projects disseminated throughout the country.

There are ways to address social goals such as improving sanitation, reducing waste and cutting down on GHG emissions, while operating as a business. Incentives such as CDM exist to leverage businesses that want to achieve such goals. There is a model with an idea to go off of, however a multi-disciplinary team is needed to refine the concept and make it deliverable.

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