Swedish Leadership for Sustainable Development is a network made up of 20+ companies, selected expert organizations and a Development Finance Institution. The network is coordinated by Sida and has become a forum for valuable knowledge-exchange, concrete projects and collaborative models for poverty reduction and sustainable development, with implementation of the Global Goals as the over-arching umbrella.
The new UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development (the Global Goals) bring together various actors around issues of development and sustainability in a more comprehensive way than ever before. Solutions for poverty reduction are increasingly focused on building partnerships involving states as well as the business sector and civil society.
In 2013, in the preparations leading up to the adoption of the Global Goals, Sida initiated a meeting with Swedish business leaders, with the purpose to engage in dialogue and identify challenges and opportunities related to sustainable development, poverty reduction and corporate responsibility. The meeting resulted in the forming of a network - Swedish Leadership for Sustainable Development (Swedish Leadership) - to ensure a continued channel for dialogue between the members, a forum for knowledge exchange and a platform for concrete collaborative projects and initiatives.
The network is coordinated by Sida but is based on the companies' own leadership and their commitment to the issue of sustainable development. Regular meetings are held throughout the year on operational level, while CEOs gather for the Annual Meeting in May to discuss strategic issues and to set the course for the upcoming year.
With the adoption of the Global Goals, the network came together in a Joint Commitment, stating how the participating members will contribute to the achievement of these goals, mainly focusing on goals 8, 12 and 16. The Joint Commitment affirms that members through their core business practices and collaborative efforts commit to;
- Reducing negative impacts on environment and promoting efficient use of resources
- Creating decent jobs, productive employment and development opportunities
- Fighting corruption and unethical behaviour.
In addition to this, the network members consider the promotion of gender equality and equal opportunities for all fundamental to sustainable development (SDG 5) and of course, goal 17 – that of partnership – is ever present.
The Joint Commitment is put into different forms of action within Swedish Leadership. Since its inception, the network members have gathered over 40 times to share experiences, learn from each other and develop their knowledge of today's major sustainability issues - from minimum wages and whistleblowing systems, to gender equality, circular economy, energy efficiency and fair working conditions. Despite the fact that some of the network members operate within the same industry, a great amount of trust has been built up within the network, contributing to frank and open discussions and knowledge sharing.
The network has participated in several international fora, including the World Economic Forum in Davos, the summit on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa and at the adoption of the Global Goals in New York. At these meetings, Swedish Leadership members have shared experiences to date and showcased how effective partnerships can be built – all of this to show leadership in concrete action and to inspire others to engage in partnerships for the 2030 Agenda. Also in Sweden the network participates actively in the discourse of sustainability, both in the media and at various conferences and events.
Today, the network members and Sida have a number of concrete projects ongoing, in areas such as water conservation, vocational training and social dialogue. These are public-private partnerships with a cost-sharing element, based on win-win opportunities between Sweden’s country strategies for development cooperation and business strategies of the partner companies.
Already, the private sector accounts for most of the investments in the world's low- and middle-income countries. A dedicated business sector that takes long-term responsibility is therefore crucial to the creation of jobs, strengthening of markets and building of sustainable communities. By initiating and coordinating a network such as Swedish Leadership for Sustainable Development, Sida wants to be a relevant partner for the business sector and stimulate private investments that make a difference for people living in poverty and vulnerability.