Practical Private Sector Engagement: a challenge deserving of more focused attention

If asked, my honest answer would probably be that the last thing we need is another international development agency working on green growth and sustainable development. The landscape is already very crowded, with many institutions doing excellent work in sometimes overlapping areas. If anything, we probably need less institutions, more cooperation and targeted focus, on where real value can be added. However, I am not so sure that “no thanks” is really the best answer.

Yes, there are a plethora of development agencies working on various aspects within the green growth agenda, but one area seems to be glaringly under-served, and that is the practical engagement of the private sector. Once again, yes, there is no shortage of organisations with a corporate focus, but their primary concern seems to be with one (or more) of three things: explaining green to the private sector, explaining to the rest of the world that the private sector is sincere about being green, or explaining what needs to be done (often in policy terms) to make private sector engagement, possible. This suggests, that few development agencies are actually facilitating practical private sector engagement and building the partnerships that make this possible.

This bold statement will probably prompt many to point to organisations that are making real progress on private sector engagement, like the International Finance Corporation with its private sector finance focus or the WWF, with its many partnerships aimed at good corporate citizenship, to mention just two.

But where I see the gap, is the effort to create private sector delivery coalitions that identify investment barriers and address them in an effective manner, by bringing private sector skills to deliver possible project specific solutions and develop finance solutions, that help to make the seemingly impossible, a reality.

Dubai, with its well-known ambitions to become a green growth capital of the world, has taken an initiative to address exactly these three areas by launching the World Green Economy Organisation (WGEO). SRI Executive has been given the opportunity to work with the WGEO in defining its vision, mission, goals and services. This exercise is being carefully conducted to ensure that the WGEO adds real value, delivers what its private sector partners need most, brings to bear the networks and relationships of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which is hosting WGEO’s development and serves as a platform to mobilise the right expertise, around each challenge.

So, yes, there is space for greater engagement in the green growth area, especially if that engagement leads to solutions, that make business sense.

Yvo de Boer

Partner, SRI Executive (Strategy)