New Working Papers Highlight Importance of Partnerships, Finance & Innovation

The following research on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contributed to our January 2017 flagship report, Better Business, Better World. Summaries and downloads of commissioned papers by partners are available below.

Partnerships for Sustainable Development

Partnerships are a valuable tool to drive change toward more responsible, inclusive and sustainable growth. They can help to address some of the market failures, governance gaps and trust deficits that undermine the acceleration and scaling of business engagement in sustainable development. They can also serve as a platform for convening and coordinating the diverse actions of numerous actors and for building mutually reinforcing linkages between different sectors and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But without more business-to-business and cross-sector alliances, meeting the SDGs will not be possible. The paper, Partnerships for Sustainable Development, offers five pathways to businesses for building better partnerships, including:

  1. Strengthen pre-competitive business alliances to leverage industry-wide standards and joint action.
  2. Participate in joint financing and innovation platforms to deliver specific goals.
  3. Support collective initiatives to harmonize sustainability data and reporting.
  4. Expand coalitions that are integrating sustainability criteria into capital markets.
  5. Coordinate policy dialogue and investment in key cities, landscapes and countries of operation

The report reminds readers that the ability to galvanize and convene other stakeholders to co-create effective partnerships has become one of the essential leadership imperatives for the 21st century.

Financial Innovation and Sustainable Development

The paper Financial Innovation and Sustainable Development argues that financial systems are tools that can aid achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, yet also need to exhibit sustainability of their own. Some specific innovations that might provide disproportionately large benefits for sustainability include: confidence accounting and mutual distributed ledgers in financial measurement, digital fiat currencies and common tenders in monetary systems, increased access from peer-to-peer lending & insurance and mobile money in financial technology, and disaster insurance and land value taxation in financial structures.

While, perhaps with the exception of digital fiat currencies, these innovations are already here, they are often ignored or unevenly implemented. This paper concludes that, of all the innovations discussed, providing identity systems for the 2.4 billion people without legal identity is a single tool that could transform all areas of sustainable development. 

Five Sects of Innovation

The Sustainable Development Goals will only be met if more people get solutions they want which work within economic and resource constrains. That is only possible with more innovation, in more forms and from more people and places says The Five Sects of Innovation. Yet promoting more innovation on its own will not be enough. We need innovation that creates new and more sustainable systems of production and consumption. Innovation that stimulates economic growth by using product proliferation to encourage rich consumers to consume more will not do the trick, indeed it may be destructive. Innovations that create cheaper products and services but thereby encourages more demand for energy and resources per capita will not work and could be counter productive. Instead we will need innovations that deliver a better quality of life, to more people, while using fewer resources: transformative and generative forms of innovation. 

Five different trajectories (or sects) of innovation will help take us to a better future:

  1. Exponentialists
  2. Smartists
  3. Frugalists
  4. Humanists
  5. Statists

Each offers huge opportunities for business to create the new basis for sustainable shared prosperity. Each is advocated by a sect of believers.