Development Forecast 2019

The frequent use of the word “innovation” in the current Philippine Development Plan (PDP) - it appears no fewer than 148 times - reflects the importance attached to finding new ways of tackling old problems in the quest to reach national development targets and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. (See 5 things you need to know about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development)

One of the key drivers of innovation is the private sector. Innovation in how the private sector does business, how it partners with government and civil society organizations, and how it engages with development organizations has become one of the defining characteristics of current global efforts to achieve the SDGs. These new ways of working, partnering, and engaging are on the rise in the Philippines too.

The other week, I had the good fortune to listen to David Cheng at a dinner hosted by Ashoka Philippines. David, a former investment banker, spoke about his “conversion” to social entrepreneurship and the efforts of an Ashoka Fellow, David Green, to bring life-saving implants that prevent people with cataracts from losing their sight in India. David disrupted an established high-cost market out of reach of India’s poor by designing an extremely low-cost solution and having it locally manufactured on a large scale. (Find out more about the work of Ashoka fellows here: www.ashoka.org.)

It is these types of incredible innovations from social enterprises that are creating breakthroughs in our collective efforts to achieve the SDGs. What makes social entrepreneurs and social enterprises different is their commitment to a triple bottom-line of making profit while meeting social goals and achieving environmental sustainability. This is no easy feat!

The Philippines is part of this exciting, rapidly growing global trend, especially among young people. For example, through a partnership with Citi Foundation, UNDP supports Youth Co:Lab (www.youthcolab.org) - a regional initiative to establish a common agenda for Asia-Pacific countries to accel­erate implementation of the SDGs by empowering and investing in youth leadership, social innovation, and entre­preneurship. In the Philippines, #hacksociety “ideathons" organized in partnership with Rappler have given local start-up social enterprises a chance to sharpen their ideas and skills to expand their operations. Social enterprises, like Arooga Health, LawKo, Phinix, and many others are showing the way forward in the Philippines.

Despite expansion in the number of social enterprises, they often struggle to achieve sufficient scale to become established, viable businesses. To respond to this challenge and promote further growth in the social enterprise sector, UNDP with support from the Australian government is partnering with PhilDev Foundation - a non-governmental organization founded by Fil-Am Silicon Valley-leader, Dado Banatao - to implement the Innovation for Social Impact Partnership (www.isip-ph.com). 

Enshrining the role of social enterprise in legislation helps to raise awareness and support. Legal status helps recognize social enterprises for their distinctive role in meeting societal challenges. Passage of the Poverty Reduction through Social Entrepreneurship Bill, currently being reviewed in the Senate would be an important step forward for the Philippines.

It is not only social enterprises that are rising to the SDG challenge. Many larger companies, including multinational corporations, are stepping up their commitment to the SDGs. Last year, UNDP partnered with the Philippine Business for the Environment to prepare Transformational Business the first report of its kind in the Philippines to capture and report on the many different ways companies are aligning their core business processes, activities, and initiatives with the SDGs. 

Companies are looking at how they can make their own business processes more inclusive, for example by creating economic opportunities for people at the “base of the pyramid”, integrating small producers into value chains, or committing to hiring people from marginalized and vulnerable groups. Initiatives like the UNDP-hosted Business Call to Action (www.businesscalltoaction.org) are supporting companies that promote inclusive business approaches and holding them to account for achieving their inclusive business pledges.

Since 2018, BCtA has helped more than 220 companies in 70 countries, including companies like Coffee for Peace, Kennemer Foods, Messy Bessy, PHINMA Properties and other companies in the Philippines who are all active members of BCtA.

We need many more companies to align core business processes, activities, and initiatives with the SDGs. To help companies assess the scale and market composition of business opportunities in meeting the SDGs, the Business and Sustainable Development Commission released the  Better Business Better World report in 2017. The report estimated that achieving the SDGs will create at least US$12 trillion globally in business opportunities. The report identified 60 major market opportunities across four economic systems in food and agriculture, cities, energy and materials, and health and well-being. 

Given the relevance of all four economic systems to the Philippines, UNDP has commissioned a country-level report to estimate the business opportunities in meeting the SDGs. The analysis will provide companies and financial institutions with an important guidepost for future opportunities and investment needs for meeting the SDGs locally. 

2019 promises many new opportunities to accelerate these dynamic private sector-led movements. So, no matter whether you are young or old, or if you play a supporting or managerial role in a large corporation, family business, or social enterprise - there’s no better time to get actively involved in efforts to achieve the SDGs.

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Article by Andrew Parker, UNDP Senior Economist

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