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5Frederico Lamego de Teixeira Soares; Cristina Y. A. Inoue
The Role of the Private Sector in the
Agenda 2030: Modalities of Engagement
and Financing Alternatives
O Papel do Setor Privado na Agenda 2030:
Modalidades de Engajamento e Alternativas
de Financiamento
DOI: 10.21530/ci.v15n1.2020.979
Frederico Lamego de Teixeira Soares
Cristina Y. A. Inoue
This article proposes a conceptual framework to analyze the potentialities and limits for
private sector participation in the Agenda 2030. The framework consists of two categories:
corporate awareness for development and active partnership for development. The first deals
with the introduction of corporate sustainable responsible practices or business strategies
based on development concerns. The second contemplates the roles of resource provider,
executor or beneficiary of development cooperation initiatives in the context of the Agenda
2030. In addition, this article proposes financial mechanisms that could promote private
sector engagement. In sequence, this article provides an analysis and examples of the current
participation of companies in the Agenda 2030 based on the analytical framework.
Keywords: Development Cooperation; Sustainable Development Goals; Development
Financing; Private Sector Engagement.
1 Economist and a PhD candidate in International Relations at the University of Brasilia. Frederico holds titles
of Master of Science in Financial Economics at the University of London and in International Relations History
at the University of Brasilia. He is also the Executive Manager of International Relations at SENAI — National
Confederation of Industry. ORCID:; email:
2 Assistant Professor and Phd in Sustainable Development at the Institute of International Relations at the University
of Brasilia. Cristina is a visiting researcher in the International Human Dimensions of Global Environmental
Change, United Nations University and in the School of Global Environmental Sustainability, Colorado State
University. ORCID:; email:
Artigo submetido em 28/07/2019 e aprovado em 27/01/2019.
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The Role of the Private Sector in the Agenda 2030: Modalities of Engagement and Financing Alternatives
O estudo propõe um quadro de referência analítico para avaliar as potencialidades e limites
da participação do setor privado na agenda 2030. O quadro analítico está dividido em
duas categorias: conscientização corporativa para o desenvolvimento e parceria ativa para
o desenvolvimento. A primeira considera a introdução de práticas de responsabilidade
sustentável corporativa ou a introdução de estratégias empresariais com preocupação no
desenvolvimento. A segunda contempla os papéis de provedor de recursos, executor ou
beneficiário de iniciativas de cooperação para o desenvolvimento no âmbito da agenda
2030. Adicionalmente, este artigo apresenta relação de mecanismos de financiamento que
possam promover o engajamento do setor privado. Em seguida, o artigo apresenta análise
e exemplos do estado atual de participação das empresas na agenda de desenvolvimento a
partir do quadro analítico.
Palavras-chave: Cooperação técnica; Objetivos do Desenvolvimento Sustentável; Financiamento
do Desenvolvimento; Engajamento do Setor Privado.
In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals — SDGs were launched in the
United Nations Conference Rio+20 with great expectations from the international
community. Member States decided to build them upon the Millennium Development
Goals and converge with the post-2015 development agenda. The so-called Agenda
2030 — approved by consensus by heads of states from all member countries —
consists in a declaration, 17 sustainable development goals and 169 targets that
deal with global challenges related with “people, planet and prosperity”
. This
initiative became the global mainstream to promote development cooperation
(Kanie and Biermann 2017). The Agenda 2030 has an ambitious architecture
of execution since it takes into consideration the distinct economic, social and
planetary realities (Kanie and Biermann 2017). It also implies a concerted multi-
level negotiation and management process that count with different state and
non-state actors working in different platforms.
The implementation of the SDGs demands a broad engagement of governments,
private sector and civil society in general through the creation of new governance
arrangements, programs of action and partnerships. In regard to financing,
3 For information about SDGs, please see the United Nations (2015).
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7Frederico Lamego de Teixeira Soares; Cristina Y. A. Inoue
the implementation of the SDGs projects a funding gap of more than US$ 2,5
trillion for the horizon 2015 -2030 projected by the Organization for Economic
Co-operation and Development — OECD
in 2017. As an example, the United Nations
Intergovernmental Committee on Sustainable Development indicates that the
sustainable goal related to eradication of extreme poverty implies the allocation
of resources of US$ 35-195 billion per year during the period 2015-2030 (Voituriez
et al 2017). The most recent estimate of financial needs from the International
Monetary Fund — IMF projects that the achievement of a subset of SDGs in 49
developing countries —focusing on health, education, water and sanitation, roads
and electricity— forecasts additional spending of about US$ 520 billion a year, or
an increase of 14 percentage points of GDP on average
In contrast, the amount of official development assistance — ODA spent by
OECD DAC member countries has had a slight increase of 28.7% in 2016 in relation
to 2008 when it reached US$ 144.9 billion
. If other emergent donors are added
(Arab countries, China, India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, among others), the total
amount of aid assistance could be estimated as a total of US$ 161 billion in 2017
However, the main increase of ODA in the last five years was due to aid assistance
spent on refugee and humanitarian crisis
that totaled US$ 14.3 billion in 2017
In this scene, the total amount of bilateral aid spent on development aid in 2017 is
similar to the amount of 2008. In addition, emerging donors — like China, India
and Brazil — have strengthened their South-South cooperation initiatives with
an estimated allocation of US$ 7.4 billion
. The data of China needs a further
analysis. A study conducted by Johnston and Rudyak (2017) has pointed out that
China’s net aid had reached US$ 5.4 billion in 2013, most of which was being
disbursed on bilateral schemes. Despite these differences, the total amount spent
on development cooperation by these emergent donors is far behind the figures
of the OECD countries, as seen below:
4 For more information, please see IMF (2019).
5 According to the OECD, ODA includes the total amount of funding allocated by members of the Development
Assistance Committee — DAC of the OECD and countries that are non-members. The Development Assistance
Committee — DAC is a forum that discuss cooperation, technical assistance and poverty reduction in the
OECD. It counts with more than 30 members from OECD, plus other non-member countries like Chile, Israel,
Estonia, Latvia and Turkey. In addition, the World Bank, IMF, UNDP, the Development African Bank, the Asian
Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank participate as observers.
6 Idem. N.A. Although the data could be underestimated in the case of China.
7 Idem.
8 Idem. N.A. There were no official data available for 2017.
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The Role of the Private Sector in the Agenda 2030: Modalities of Engagement and Financing Alternatives
Table 1 — Estimates of Gross Concessional Flows of Development Co-operation
from Emergent Donors, 2012-2016 — (USD Million)
Country 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Source
Brazil 412 316 - -
Institute of Applied Economic Research — IPEA
and the Brazilian Agency of Cooperation
Chile 38 44 49 33 33 Ministry of Finance
China 3.123 2.997 3.401 3.113 3.615 Fiscal Yearbook, Ministry of Finance
Colombia 27 42 45 42
Strategy institutional plans, Presidential Agency
of International Cooperation
Costa Rica - 21 24 10 9 Annual budget figures, Ministry of Finance
India 1.077 1.223 1.398 1.772 1.695 Annual budget figures, Ministry of Finance
Indonesia 26 49 56 - - Ministry of National Development Planning
Mexico 203 526 169 207 125
Mexican Agency for International Development
Cooperation — AMEXCID
Qatar 543 1.344 - - - Foreign aid reports, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
South Africa 191 191 148 100 95 Estimates of public expenditures, National Treasury
Source: OECD. Development Co-operation Report, 2018.
Multilateral organizations have also increased the volume of subsidized
credit lines to developing countries, reaching US$ 70 billion. Finally, the private
sector foundations have been gaining a more prominent role in the development
cooperation agenda, allocating the amount of US$ 24 billion in development
aid between 2013 and 2015
. However, the growth of private sector foundations
in development cooperation has occurred mainly due to the Bill and Melinda
Gates Foundation that is responsible for 48% of the total funding allocated by
foundations in 2016 (OECD 2018). This panorama of development financing shows
that traditional donors have increased aid spending on a very moderate pace, on
one hand, and multilateral organizations and new donors — such as emergent
countries and private foundations –, on the other, have had an expanding role in
this agenda but far behind the OECD members.
In this context, private sector engagement became a key strategy to tackle
the global challenges that were translated into the SDGs. Since the 4
High Level
Forum on Aid Effectiveness of 2011 in Busan, the private sector has been recognized
as a relevant actor in the promotion of development cooperation. Sequential
international forums — such as the Group of Twenty meetings, the United Nations
Summits about the Millennium Goals and the Agenda 2030, the Conferences on
Financing for Development and the 2o High Level UN Conference on South-South
9 Idem. According to the same
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9Frederico Lamego de Teixeira Soares; Cristina Y. A. Inoue
Cooperation of 2019 — BAPA+ 40 — also call for private sector engagement. With
the launch of Agenda 2030, companies were invited to participate in the financing
of the development agenda and to adopt corporate sustainable practices in their
operations. According to Addis Ababa Action Agenda of 2015, corporations should
take part in the development process by investing in areas critical to “sustainable
development and by shifting to more sustainable consumption and production
Examining the role of the private sector in development is a new issue in
the field of international relations. There are studies on private transnational
environmental governance and few academic references that examine the role
of the private sector in development cooperation, but most deal with the role of
private foundations that have different missions and business strategies. Other
academic references come from the field of business administration, like the work
of Porter and Kramer (2011) that defines the notion of shared value to justify the
adoption of corporate strategies based on sustainable development concerns. In this
scene, most of the concepts that discuss private sector engagement nowadays in
the development agenda comes from think-tanks and international organizations.
And these definitions are usually related to advocacy, implementation of corporate
sustainable practices and roles that consider a direct contribution to development
cooperation initiatives in general
Therefore, this article proposes an analytical framework that consolidates
the forms of private sector involvement in the context of the Agenda 2030. Two
general categories were identified: corporate awareness for development and
active partnership for development. In addition, we propose to examine potential
funding mechanisms that could promote the mobilization of companies in line
with the financial needs of the SDGs. Our first assumption is that there are many
similar concepts presented by distinct think-tanks and international organizations
to evaluate the forms of private sector engagement in the development agenda.
Secondly, there is need to seek for new indicators that could measure the
participation of companies in development in terms of financial support and
adoption of corporate sustainable practices. By proposing this framework and
possible financial mechanisms, we seek to understand the potential role and limits
for private sector engagement in the development agenda.
Drawing on a literature review and analysis of official data, this article
unfolds as follows. Initially, it presents an update of concepts and modalities to
10 See reports from OECD, DIE, North-South Institutes, among others.
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The Role of the Private Sector in the Agenda 2030: Modalities of Engagement and Financing Alternatives
organize the forms of private sector participation in development based on the
works conducted by Byiers and Rosengren; Di Bella et al.; Vaes and Huyse and
Porter and Kramer. Then, it describes alternative funding mechanisms that could
promote private sector engagement with the agenda 2030 in the future. Finally,
this article evaluates the role of the private sector on the proposed modalities,
using comparative data of the present scenario of development cooperation.
The Roles and Modalities for Private Sector Engagement
in Development Cooperation
Before examining the available studies about private sector engagement, it is
important to define private companies. In this sense, we consider the following
definition introduced by the OECD Co-operation Report of 2016:
Organizations that engage in profit-seeking activities and have a majority
private ownership (i.e. are not owned or operated by a government). This term
includes financial institutions and intermediaries, multinational companies,
micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, co-operatives, individual
entrepreneurs and farmers who operate in the formal and informal sectors.
It excludes actors with a non-profit focus, such as private foundations and
civil society organizations.
This concept is being used by most international initiatives that are supporting
the implementation of the Agenda 2030, like the Global Partnership for Effective
Development Cooperation. This is a multi-stakeholder platform that provides
guidelines for effective implementation of the SDGs. Another relevant concept
regards private sector engagement that is defined by the OECD Co-Operation Report
of 2016 as “an activity that aims to engage the private sector for development results,
which involves the active participation of the private sector”. The definition is
broad and includes all modalities (finance, policy dialogue, capacity development,
technical assistance, knowledge sharing and research for engaging the private
sector in development co-operation from informal collaborations to more formalized
and encompasses all sectors (e.g. health, education, private sector development,
renewable energy, governance, etc.). According to the same report from the OECD,
private sector engagement deals with the capacity to leverage the innovation potential
of companies as well as its contribution to finance the SDGs while, at the same
time, recognizing the need for financial return for the private sector.
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11Frederico Lamego de Teixeira Soares; Cristina Y. A. Inoue
In order to understand the companies’ motivations to participate in the
development agenda, the article of Michael Porter and Mark Kramer (2011)
introduces the notion of shared value. Porter and Kramer propose a new business
strategy for companies that conciliate the creation of economic value with benefits
for society “by addressing its needs and challenges.” According to these researchers,
business should seek to reconnect the company’s success with social development.
By pursuing this strategic position, corporations could legitimize business again.
They also remember that the notion of shared value goes beyond the adoption of
corporate responsibility policies that, on their view, has a limited effect in terms
of business stainability. Porter and Kramer indicate that the shared value strategy
has a well-defined rationale: companies would seek to reduce profits and margins
in the short term in exchange for a long term sustained success.
This concept proposed by Porter and Kramer is being used as guiding principles
by international organizations and forums to attract companies to the development
cooperation agenda. According to the OECD Development Co-operation Report
of (2016):
Companies that introduce sustainability into their business models are
profitable and successful, with positive returns on capital in terms of reduced
risks, diversification of markets and portfolios, increased revenue, reduced
costs, and improved value of products. Increasingly, investments in developing
countries — and even in the least developed countries are seen as business
opportunities, despite the risks involved. On the other hand, companies
provide jobs, infrastructure, innovation and social service, among others.
The same report from the OECD states that the opening of new potential
markets in developing countries and the expansion of global supply chains create
an opportunity for transnational companies to adopt a corporate responsible
attitude towards local consumers and suppliers. And this understanding implies
the introduction of a development perspective on business strategies. In line with
the concept of shared value, initiatives such as the Global Compact of the United
Nations are also promoting private sector mobilization towards introducing a
sustainable development perspective on their business activities.
Based on these definitions, many studies have conceptualized and proposed
modalities to understand the role of the private sector in development cooperation.
Most of the research come from think-tanks, international organizations and
initiatives. Byiers and Rosengren (2012), for example, organize the private sector
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The Role of the Private Sector in the Agenda 2030: Modalities of Engagement and Financing Alternatives
engagement in two categories: While the first addresses how companies promote
the development of the country’s domestic economies and support governments
to design and implement policies to stimulate economic transformation through
investment, productivity growth, business expansion and employment; the
second has to do with donor engagement with international business activities
and financing to achieve development objectives.
In a research conducted by the Belgian Institute KU Leuven entitled Private Sector
in Development of 2015, Vaes and Huyse analyze the perspectives for the private
sector cooperation. According to the researchers, a combination of the following
drivers has given visibility for the private sector in the development agenda:
Box 1 — Drivers behind the Current Private Turn
− Increasingly complex cross-boundary problems
require complex multi-stakeholder solutions;
− Financial crisis and the search for alternative
financing mechanisms to leverage and
compliment public funds for development;
− Increasingly scarcity and the expected climate
change on food supply shows the need for
sustainable business models;
− Changing expectations from consumers and
employees, regarding business practices and
the products;
− Changing attitudes towards entrepreneurship
and the introduction of new business ethics
and business models
− Assumption that business would be good (or
even better) at delivering on aid effectiveness
− Assumption that private sector is the driver of
growth which in turn will lead to development
and poverty reduction
− Central role for the private sector in the
international cooperation of emerging powers
(e.g. BRICS)
− International development policy designating
private sector as a prominent actor in
development cooperation
− Neighboring countries or other OECD-DAC
donors placing private sector more central in
their development cooperation
− Globalization and developing markets and
business opportunities in developing countries
− Changing expectations and external pressure
from employees, governments, customers and
watchdogs regarding business practices and
− Frontrunners experiment (successfully) with
new business models
− Maintaining supply chain will require more
sustainable production methods and linkages
with producers
− Increasing reporting requirements (e.g. GRI)
− Financial crisis and the search for alternative
financing mechanisms to replace or complement
government and public funding
− Unable to achieve its mission alone
− Increase power, reach and impact of private
− Increasingly privatized provision of essential
− Increasingly pro-business attitude of
development policy
− Looking for ways to include poor and
marginalized in sustainable product chains
− Competing with private sector for development
Source: Belgian Institute KU Leuven.
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13Frederico Lamego de Teixeira Soares; Cristina Y. A. Inoue
The model presented by Di Bella Et al. (2013) goes deeper in the definitions
and proposes to classify the various forms of private sector mobilization. These
authors published a relevant and detailed study coordinated by the North-South
Institute about the private sector engagement in aid initiatives. According to Di
Bella Et al., there is a growing perception in the international community about
the importance to bring the private sector to play a more active role in this
agenda. The private sector can bring innovation and provide financial support
for development cooperation. And business strategies can be tied to sustainable
development business models that bring profits and promote inclusive growth.
This research of the North-South Institute proposes the following roles for the
private sector in the development agenda:
Box 2 — Key concepts: Private Sector and Development
PRIVATE SECTOR DEVELOPMENT: Activities carried out by governments, financial institutions and
development organizations geared toward creating an enabling environment for business to flourish.
Includes activities by development cooperation actors aimed at increasing private sector investment in
developing countries.
PRIVATE SECTOR IN DEVELOPMENT: The roles of and activities carried out by the private sector as part
of its regular core business operations that affect development outcomes and economic growth through
positive impacts such as job creation, provision of goods and services, and taxation, and negative impacts
such as environmental degradation and poor labor practices.
PRIVATE SECTOR ENGAGEMENTS FOR DEVELOPMENT: Instances when engagements with the private
sector go beyond the traditional impacts of the private sector in development. Private sector engagements
for development include firms’ active pursuit of positive development outcomes. This occurs through, for
example, funding and/or carrying out development projects, adopting and implementing inclusive business
models, aligning core activities to explicitly contribute to the achievement of development outcomes,
creating inclusive value chains, adopting and supporting the widespread adoption of responsible business
practices in areas such as environmental sustainability and human rights, improving accountability and
transparency in business operations, and targeting the transfer of technologies to host communities.
Source: Di Bella Et al (2013).
Di Bella Et al. (2013) remember that these concepts of private sector
participation can be combined with the following ways of implementation:
• Political dialogue
• Sharing of knowledge
• Technical cooperation
• Capacity building
• Donations
• Loans
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The Role of the Private Sector in the Agenda 2030: Modalities of Engagement and Financing Alternatives
Another study from Kindernay and Reilly-King (2013) defines the participation
of the private sector in terms of levels of intervention: macro, meso and micro
level. Macro level interventions focus on business environment; that is creating the
legal, economic and regulatory conditions for business to flourish. Interventions
of meso level would be related to making the markets work better by reducing
market imperfections through the building of value-chains or through integration
of players in the market. And micro is related to interventions in business, people
and support services. The Belgian Institute KU Leuven also conducted a research in
2012 to evaluate the involvement of the private sector in selected European Countries
and the Flandres region. The authors Vaes and Huyse (2012) indicate a list of ten
possible functions for the private sector in the development cooperation agenda:
1. Resource provider: financial resources for development initiatives;
2. Resource provider: expertise and other strategic resources such as network,
data, research capacity;
3. Beneficiary: beneficiary of efforts to create an enabling business environment;
4. Beneficiary: capacity development, information provision and/or
knowledge sharing initiatives that aim to increase capacity to contribute
to development goals;
5. Beneficiary: beneficiary of financial support that aims to boost private
sector activity or investment with particular development impact;
6. Beneficiary: executor of contracts for implementing aid projects and
programs: (role of subcontractor);
7. Target of regulation, lobby or advocacy: the private sector is pushed by
global governance institutions, governments or civil organizations to
change business practices;
8. Reformer: change of existing business models through corporate social
responsibility, corporate social accountability or stakeholder value
maximization: the private sector adapts its own business model to increase
its positive development impact and sustainability
9. Developer-implementer: implementation of new, social inclusive or
solidarity economy initiatives and business models or initiatives with
particular development relevance.
10. Participant: taking part in development related policy dialogue or multi-
stakeholder initiatives that aim to influence business and development
policy and practice.
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15Frederico Lamego de Teixeira Soares; Cristina Y. A. Inoue
The analysis of the models and modalities presented by Byiers and Rosengren;
Di Bella Et al. and Vaes and Huyse indicate that the participation of the private
sector in the Agenda 2030 could be divided in two well defined categories:
Corporate Awareness for Development and Active Partnership for Development.
The first contemplates mobilization, advocacy or the introduction of strategies
and practices aligned with social and sustainable impacts. The second deals with
the roles of resource provider, executor or beneficiary of development cooperation
initiatives, usually in partnership with governments or multilateral organizations.
Thus, we propose five main roles for private sector engagement for the Agenda
2030, as follows:
Box 3 — Proposal of Modalities for Private Sector Participation for the Agenda 2030
Corporate Awareness for Development Active Partnership for Development
Corporate Responsible Participant: Private
sector introduce practices of corporate
sustainable principles. It also includes the
participation of companies in initiatives to
promote the awareness of the development
agenda like policy dialogue & multi-
stakeholder initiatives on development issues.
Corporate Reformer: Corporate sustainability
becomes a key component of the business
strategy. Companies also act in the advocacy
a of sustainable policies in international
forums. Corporate strategy based on
sustainable practices include innovative
services and products that generate value
for customers and local capacity building
and social and economic development.
Companies adopt the notion of shared value
in their global strategies as to sustain long
term presence of their business activities.
Resource provider: Private sector offers financing or
participate in co-financing initiatives. The provision
of financial support considers loans, grants, public-
private partnerships and the use of new financial
schemes — such as blended finance — when linked to
a development initiative.
Executor: Private sector takes part in implementing
new, social inclusive initiatives with particular
development relevance. It includes coordination of
development initiatives that have partnership with
other stakeholders and/or count with public-private
financial mechanisms. The execution of development
initiatives contemplates sharing of knowledge and
capacity building with the use of innovative practices.
Beneficiary– private sector is a beneficiary of the
results of development projects and programs. It can also
include the promotion of private sector development as
a result of technical cooperation initiative.
Source: based on Byiers and Rosengren; Di Bella Et al.; Vaes and Huyse; and Porter and Kramer.
The proposed notion of Corporate Awareness for Development is well in
line with the definitions of Di Bella et al. since it has a direct relation with the
positive impact that can be generated by private sector actions. We propose to
divide this category into two modalities: Corporate Responsible Participant and
Corporate Reformer. The role of Corporate Responsible Participant is the first
stage of private sector involvement with the development agenda. It considers
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The Role of the Private Sector in the Agenda 2030: Modalities of Engagement and Financing Alternatives
the adoption of corporate sustainability measures by companies. As an example,
the establishment of the Global Compact Initiative by the United Nations is one
of the many initiatives aimed to promote the development agenda through the
introduction of corporate governance principles. This initiative mobilizes almost
ten thousand companies from more than 164 countries and propose guidelines
for companies to follow in line with the SDGs.
The Corporate Reformer is a modality that deepens the participation of the
private sector in the development agenda. Also, it includes measures to promote
better corporate sustainability practices and ways to address positive impacts.
The promotion of a sustainable development agenda becomes a key component in
the companies’ strategy. According to Ioannou and Serafeim (2019), the adoption
of strategic sustainability practices is significantly and positively associated with
both return on capital and expectations of future performance. Companies also
have an active role in the design of policies related to private sector engagement in
international forums. The concept of shared value proposed by Porter and Kramer
is also an integral part of global strategies of the corporate reformers.
In this context, there are new financial mechanisms that can address company’s
interests to invest in sustainable initiatives. To Dalberg (2014), innovative financing
is shifting from the fundraising approach to the delivery of positive social and
environmental outcomes. In this scene, the growth of impact investment funds
follows this direction. And a growing number of investors are expressing a desire
to “do good while doing well.” These are impact investors, who seek opportunities
for financial investments that produce significant social or environmental
benefits. Private funds which invest in companies that promote social impacts is
another example of the role of resource provider. The Rise Fund measures impact
investment in 30 key outcome areas, aligned with the United Nations Sustainable
Development Goals — SDGs through a measurable evidenced-based, quantifiable
assessment. For each potential investment, an indicator called Impact Multiple of
Money (IMM)™ aims to estimate a company’s potential for positive impact that
is used for investment selection criteria
(Addy Et al. 2019). Environmental, social
and governance principles are part of the investment diligence and the decision
process. These are examples of organizations of the New Economy that are able
to reconcile business with sustainable development concern.
The Active Partnership for Development deals with a more direct role
of companies in the implementation of initiatives that are in line with the
Agenda 2030. It considers institutional arrangements of the private sector with
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17Frederico Lamego de Teixeira Soares; Cristina Y. A. Inoue
governments, multilateral organizations and non-profit institutions engaged
in development cooperation initiatives. These arrangements consist in the
establishment of governance mechanisms, public-private partnerships, institutional
arrangements and financial mechanisms that can be allocated by companies to
tackle development challenges. In this context, the Global Partnership for Effective
Development Cooperation
is an example of a global governance mechanism that
provides practical guidance and shares knowledge to boost the development
impact, supporting country-level implementation of the internationally-agreed
development effectiveness principles. It counts with high level representatives from
governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector that
are effectively participating in the implementation of the development agenda.
In April 2019, the Global Partnership launched guidelines to stir private sector
participation in the development agenda.
We propose to divide this category into three distinct roles: resource provider,
executor and beneficiary. The resource provider contemplates the allocation of
resources by the private sector through funding mechanisms and institutional
arrangements. Foundations of transnational companies are among one of the main
relevant actors of this modality, according to Di Bella Et al. Major corporations have
established foundations that act on behalf of those companies or are responsible
for implementing their corporate responsible strategy. Therefore, they do not
act as independent corporations and thus could be included in the definition of
private sector, according to Di Bella Et al. (2013).
In addition, public-private partnerships — PPPs could be one of the attractive
ways to seek extra resources from companies for the Agenda 2030. PPP is a contract
between a government and a private company under which the private company
finances, builds and operates some element of a service that was traditionally
considered a government domain. PPPs are typically employed to implement
infrastructural projects when public budgets are constrained. For Thamer and
Lazzarini (2015), PPPs should not be mistaken with other types of acquisition
of public services since they consider a cooperative and risk sharing initiative
between the government and the private sectors. Properly managed, they may
also improve public service efficiency through technical expertise provided by
the private sector. Usually, a partnership agreement is signed between the public
and private organizations “to mitigate the level of risk-taking for all parties and
create a win-win situation”.
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The Role of the Private Sector in the Agenda 2030: Modalities of Engagement and Financing Alternatives
Developing agencies are fostering the use of PPPs to attract companies
in development cooperation initiatives. For example, the Japan International
Cooperation Agency (JICA) has defined policies to foster partnerships with Japanese
corporations to promote local business development (Hayashi 2014). JICA has a
series of ODA schemes to support private business in developing countries in line
with the SDGs. According to Hayashi (2014):
With this increased interest on the part of Japanese business in developing
countries, the government has developed programs of support for these
companies. Among these support programs are ODA schemes providing
companies with the resources to initiate a business in developing countries,
which would address social problems in these countries. The government
is working on the assumption that acceleration of overseas operations by
Japanese companies potentially contributes not only to the economy of the
countries concerned, but also to Japan’s national interests.
The role of resource provider also contemplates new funding mechanisms
such as blended finance that have a variety of models and consists in mobilizing
capital investment through public-private partnerships. This type of funding
mechanism seeks alternatives to leverage private investments with a limited
amount of official development assistance. For the OECD, blended finance is the
strategic use of development finance for the mobilization of additional finance
towards sustainable development in developing countries. Blended Finance
refers to a financing package comprised of concessional funding provided by
development partners and commercial funding provided by financial institutions
and co-investors. Blended Finance solutions can provide financial support to a
high-impact project that would not attract private funding on strictly commercial
terms because the risks are considered too high and the returns are either unproven
or not commensurate with the level of risk. It also reduces risks for the private
sector initiatives that are in line with public interest. According to Voituriez
Et al (2017):
In this respect, lending most traditionally involves combining a variety
of instruments — basically loans and grants — from a single institution.
This type of blending translates into subsidized loans and represents the
core business of development finance institutions such as the European
Investment Bank, the French Development Agency, and German Development
Bank KfW.
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19Frederico Lamego de Teixeira Soares; Cristina Y. A. Inoue
The establishment of blended finance schemes consider the use of different
financial instruments as follows:
Box 4 — Private Sector Engagement Through Development Cooperation: instruments
Grants: cash or in-kind transfers which do not generate debt for recipients
Debt instruments: cash or in-kind transfer which incur in debt for the recipient
Mezzanine finance: transfers that incur in debt or preferred stock, as subordinated loans, preferred equity
or hybrid instruments
Equity and shares in collective investment vehicles: investment through collective mechanisms to reach
regions that would not be attractive for sole or long-lasting investments.
Guarantees and Liabilities: risk-sharing mechanism: the guarantor pays part of the entire amount due on
a loan, equity or other instrument to the lender/investor in the event of non-payment by the borrower or
loss of value in the case of investment.
Source: BRICS Policy Center (2018).
The role of executor contemplates an active role of companies in designing
and implementing new social inclusive initiatives in partnership with the public
sector. The implementation of public-private partnerships schemes is also part of
this category. The executor mobilizes technical and financial resources (usually
grants) and coordinates projects that promotes capacity building and knowledge
transfer in line with development challenges. Consultancy companies, for example,
compete for public funding and grants to implement projects in developing
countries. The Palladium Consulting Group ( and
Mckinsey ( — among other players — are examples of
global consultancies that develop business activities implementing capacity building
projects in developing countries. In the case of the Palladium Consultancy Group,
there is a list of development cooperation initiatives that are funded by different
development agencies like the British and the Australian. In addition, there is an
extensive emphasis on evaluation in order to demonstrate and monetize positive
impacts. Many cooperation agencies also mobilize the private sector to support
their execution activities. In the case of Brazil, the National Service for Industrial
Training — SENAI is one of the main partners of the Brazilian Cooperation — ABC.
SENAI is a private non-profit organization that promotes skills development for the
industrial sector in Brazil and has established more than nine technical schools
in Africa, Latin America and East Timor. In Germany, there is an extensive list of
consultancy and non-profit organizations that also act on behalf of the German
Cooperation Agency — GIZ implementing their development agenda.
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The Role of the Private Sector in the Agenda 2030: Modalities of Engagement and Financing Alternatives
Finally, the role of beneficiary consists of private sector actors — usually from
developing countries — that benefit from the results of development initiatives.
It also includes the notion of private sector development presented by Di Bella Et
al. (2013). Beneficiary institutions take part in the development initiatives seeking
to absorb know-how and capability to deliver products and services that foster
social and economic development.
The categories proposed above can facilitate the understanding of possible
ways through which the private sector has been engaging in the development
agenda. Together they encompass an analytical framework intended to highlight
the different roles that companies can play in the implementation of the Agenda
2030. Such roles can vary from a socially responsible company carrying on its
business activity to a more active one of a development-partner.
Examining the Recent Private Sector Engagement
in Development Cooperation
In this part of the article, we propose to conduct a preliminary evaluation of
the current engagement of private corporations in the Agenda 2030 based on the
available data. The intention is to identify future ways to measure the mobilization
of companies through indicators or examples aligned with the proposed modalities
of private sector engagement.
In regard to the role of Corporate Awareness for Development, foreign direct
investments are presently one of the only indicators to demonstrate the volume
of corporate investments carried out by companies. Although the use of FDI
is an important measure of economic growth, it does not provide a complete
picture of the promotion of development agenda in terms of social and economic
impacts. Nevertheless, FDI is the largest source of external finance for many
developing economies, according to the IMF
. It is also more stable than other
cross-border financial flows, such as portfolio investment and cross-border bank
loans, according to data presented by the International Monetary Fund — IMF
(Figure 1). FDI can enhance productive capacity, transfer know-how and generate
employment, particularly when it creates linkages with domestic suppliers and
help local companies integrate into international value chains.
11 IMF Annual Report 2019: our connected world
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21Frederico Lamego de Teixeira Soares; Cristina Y. A. Inoue
Figure 1 — Trends in Cross-border Net Financial Flows to Developing Countries
and Economies in transition (US$ Billions)
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Foreign Direct Investment
Portfolio investment
Other flows including cross-border bank loans
Change in reserves
Source: IMF World Economic Outlook database, October 2016 and UN/DESA calculations.
Figure 2, below, shows the evolution of foreign direct investments — FDI from
developed countries to developing countries. Looking at the figure 2, the rise of
foreign direct investment — FDI has been moderate. China is responsible for the
biggest share of inflows of FDIs in the period 2008-2016, while investments in
developing economies in the African continent and the Americas total less than
US$ 30 billion in 2016. Although there are no frameworks available to identify
the percentage of the investments allocated to the development agenda, these
figures indicate that the volume sent by companies to the developing countries
is far behind the needed amount projected by the Agenda 2030.
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The Role of the Private Sector in the Agenda 2030: Modalities of Engagement and Financing Alternatives
Figure 2 — Foreign Direct Investments to Developing Countries — 2008-2018
(% of total world inflow)
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Asia and Oceania
Latin America and the Caribbean Africa
Source: UNCTAD Data Base.
In this context, Berger and Sebastian (2019) from the German Development
Institute — GDI defends that governments should foster ways to attract FDI aimed
to improve environmental and social conditions. It proposes policies that could
stimulate links between foreign and domestic firms to improve local business
and governance, thus leading to a sustained development. According to the
German thin-tank, the World Trade Organization is promoting discussions with
developing countries to design an International Invest Facilitation Framework —
IFF. Also, GDI indicates that developing countries have made limited progress to
implement facilitation measures to attract foreign investments. The GDI proposes
six recommendations to foster FDI to developing countries:
1. Bridge the implementation gap by providing capacity building.
2. Strengthen developing countries’ negotiation capacities.
3. Respect the policy space of developing countries.
4. Focus special and differential treatment on longer implementation periods.
5. Include a commitment by home countries to support their investors’
responsible-business conduct.
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23Frederico Lamego de Teixeira Soares; Cristina Y. A. Inoue
6. Establish international cooperation mechanisms and increase inclusivity
by supporting multi-stakeholder processes.
In regard to impact investment, a recent report by the International Finance
Corporation — IFC (2019)
evaluates the size of this market. According to this
study, there are two segments that contribute to measurable positive social and
environmental impact. According to the IFC:
The first is privately managed debt and equity funds, which manage about
US$ 71 billion. The second is development finance institutions (DFIs), like
IFC, which have a mandate to invest in commercial returns to achieve
development impact. The group of 25 DFIs that share common impact metrics
manage about US$ 742 billion. Beyond these two segments, two intriguing
asset classes have the potential to contribute to measured impact. First,
green and social bonds, which may contribute additional financing to firms
generating positive environmental and social impacts, have grown rapidly
to a USD 456 billion market. Second, shareholder engagement strategies
in public equities, which are a USD 8.4 trillion market, can be deployed to
influence firms towards greater impact.
However, the IFC remembers that the rapid growth of the field of impact
investing has been accompanied by questions about how to assess impact, as
well as concerns about potentially unrealistic expectations that social impact
and market-rate returns can be simultaneously achieved. Nevertheless, there is a
great expectation that impact investment can be further stimulated through the
introduction of regulations and incentives for companies. As an example, impact
investment funds like the TPG Growth and the Rise Fund already count with
resources to invest in sustainable responsible projects of around US$ 14 billion
and US$ 2,1 billion respectively
. TPG Growth have, for example, a great focus
on sustainability and proposes “responsible investing” through the life cycle of
their projects.
In addition, an extensive list of financial mechanisms could support
development cooperation. Voituriez et al. (2017) indicate that the volume of
private and public savings amounts US$ 22 trillion and financial assets US$ 218
trillion. Institutional investors held assets estimated in US$75-85 trillion. Pension
funds, life insurance companies and sovereign wealth funds have financial assets
12 Para
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The Role of the Private Sector in the Agenda 2030: Modalities of Engagement and Financing Alternatives
that totals US$ 60 trillion
. These are examples of funding mechanisms that can
give bright perspectives for the aid financing agenda in the future. The question
lies on how governments can mobilize the private sector and these mechanisms
to be directed to the development agenda. Also, there is a need to define metrics
to establish a correlation between the SDGs and the development initiatives to
be funded by new financial schemes.
In the case of the corporate responsible and the corporate reformer roles, there
is no available data to evaluate, for example, the motivations for companies to
introduce business strategies aligned with the development agenda. Nevertheless,
Ioannou and Serafeim (2019) indicate that 93% of the largest 250 companies in the
world are publishing corporate sustainability reports. Both authors also indicate
that 78% of these companies include and/or integrate sustainability information
in their (audited) annual financial reports, according to a study coordinated
by KPMG in 2017. Through qualitative research, this information could be of
relevant use for future policy making as well as to promote further engagement
and awareness of the private sector.
When analyzing the Active Partnership for Development, information to
quantify and measure private sector engagement through the roles of executor and
beneficiary is dispersed. As an example, annual reports from developing agencies
— like the Japanese Agency of Cooperation — JICA and the German Development
Cooperation Agency — provide examples of partnerships with companies with the
amount spent in projects. In regard to the modality resource provider, the OCDE
(2020) has informed that USD 48.4 billion was mobilized from the private sector
in 2018 by official development finance interventions carried out by development
banks. This amount remains modest in scale since it represents less than a quarter
of total aid assistance spent in the same year.
This figure has a great potential to growth when compared with the total
allocation of resources spent by PPPs in the world. According to the UNCTAD
(2016), PPP funding for infrastructure projects in developing countries has
totaled approximately US$ 159 billion in 2013. According to the same report, PPP
investment has been concentrated in relatively few countries and sectors. Almost
60% of the total private participation in projects recorded in developing countries
were in (by order of magnitude) China, Brazil, the Russian Federation, India,
13 Based on information from the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development of the
United Nations.
Rev. Carta Inter., Belo Horizonte, v. 15, n. 1, 2020, p. 5-28
25Frederico Lamego de Teixeira Soares; Cristina Y. A. Inoue
Mexico and Turkey. This indicates that PPP investors act in the same rationale
as institutional investors, preferring large and dynamic markets to the more
vulnerable economies where financing needs are greatest. Only 10% of the total
went to Africa, although in sub-Saharan Africa investments have been steadily
rising (primarily because of investments in telecoms) (UNCTAD 2016).
In regard to private foundations, the OECD has published a special report
about their role in the development agenda entitled Private Philanthropy for
Development in 2016. According to the OECD, the total flow of the 143 private
foundations reached the amount of US$ 24 billion in the period 2013- 2015. This
report points out that more than 81% of the total funding are concentrated in around
20 foundations that are in its majority American organizations. This amount is also
far below the resources allocated by official sources of development assistance.
The biggest organization sponsoring aid development is the Bill and Melinda
Gates Foundation that has allocated over US$ 11,6 billion in the period 2013-2015
and is responsible for 48% of the total funding allocated by foundations
a special focus on health projects. Other foundations have also an increasing
participation in the development agenda. The Rockefeller Foundation focus its
core business in the sustainable development objectives related to food, health,
energy and jobs, mobilizing similar amount of funding
. In addition, the JP Morgan
Foundation has structured a global initiative to promote skills development in
the workplace after the financial crisis of 2008. This program called New Skills at
Work started in the US and it was then expanded to other countries with resources
totaling US$ 250 million
. These foundations act in partnerships with other donor
and recipient countries funding or executing development projects.
The objective of this study was to propose a framework that organizes the
modalities of private sector engagement in two main categories: Corporate
Awareness for Development and Active Partnership for Development. It goes
in the direction of enabling the establishment of indicators in the future. The
14 See The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ( 2016).
15 OECD (2018).
16 See Rockefeller Foundation (2016).
17 See JP Morgan & Chase (2017).
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The Role of the Private Sector in the Agenda 2030: Modalities of Engagement and Financing Alternatives
proposed framework for private sector engagement shows that the participation
of the private sector in development cooperation can occur in different ways and
through distinct mechanisms. The available data provides a partial estimation of the
private sector engagement in the development agenda. And it indicates that private
sector still plays a reduced role in the implementation of the Agenda 2030 when
we compare the volume allocated by PPPs and by Private Foundations in relation
to the total resources spent on aid assistance by official sources. Further studies
should detail and propose future indicators to facilitate a deeper comprehension
of the private sector participation based on the proposed framework. In this scene,
future studies can propose methods to analyze if the SDGs are being fulfilled as a
direct or indirect contribution of the private sector. The establishment of criteria
to identify the percentage of FDI allocated to the development agenda will also
be relevant.
The launch of the Agenda 2030 with its Sustainable Development Goals —
SDGs has provided a great opportunity to promote awareness to the challenges
of our planet and to mobilize the private sector. In this sense, initiatives that
stimulate corporate sustainable practices, such as the Global Compact and the
Global Partner for Effective Development Cooperation, are positive ways to promote
awareness and effective engagement of the private sector. However, the figures
available indicate that there is a huge gap between the present funding allocated
versus the estimated goals of the Agenda 2030. Therefore, there is an urgent
need to test and mobilize new funding mechanisms in order not to compromise
the SDGs. This research has indicated that the shared value strategy could be
a way to promote private sector engagement with a market rationale. We have
also pointed out examples of financing mechanisms that imply a concerted effort
between official donors, multilateral organizations and the private sector. These
examples give a promising perspective to address the development challenges
posed by the Agenda 2030 with private sector engagement. When companies act
in this direction, they become true reformers.
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