Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals can unlock trillions in new market value

A landmark report launched today by the Business & Sustainable Development Commission (BSDC) reveals that pursuing sustainable and inclusive business models could unlock economic opportunities worth at least US$12 trillion a year by 2030 and generate up to 380 million jobs, mostly in developing countries. 

London, 16 January, 2017: The BSDC’s flagship Better Business, Better World report, recognizes that while the last few decades have lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, they have also led to unequal growth, increasing job insecurity, ever more debt and greater environmental risks. This mix has fueled an anti-globalization reaction in many countries, with business and financial interests seen as central to the problem, and is undermining the long-term economic growth that the world needs. 

The report positions the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a compelling new strategy to reverse this trend, highlighting their potential to unleash innovation, economic growth, and development at an unprecedented scale. However, this potential will not be realized without radical change in the business and investment community. Real leadership is needed for the private sector to become a trusted partner in working with government and civil society to address the flaws in the current economic model.

The BSDC, which is comprised of 35 CEOs and civil society leaders, has spent the last year exploring the key question: “What will it take for business to be central to building a sustainable market economy-one that can help to deliver the SDGs?” The Better Business, Better World report seeks to answer this question while also highlighting the scale of the economic prize that could be available to business if the SDGs are realized.

Key findings of Better Business, Better World

  • “SDG hot spots” identified in the report have the potential to grow 2-3 times faster than average GDP over the next 10-15 years. Beyond the US$12 trillion directly estimated, conservative analysis shows potential for an additional US$8 trillion of value creation across the wider economy if companies embed SDGs in their strategies. Furthermore, factoring in the cost of externalities (negative impacts from business activities such as carbon emissions or pollution) increases the overall value of opportunities by almost 40%.

About the Business & Sustainable Development Commission

The Commission brings together three dozen leaders from business, finance, civil society, labor, and international organizations, with the twin aims of mapping the economic prize that could be available to business if the SDGs are achieved, and describing how business can contribute to achieving them. The SDGs set out 17 objectives to eliminate poverty, improve education and health outcomes, create better jobs and tackle our key environmental challenges by 2030.

Peter Bakker, President and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), serves as a Commissioner alongside the following WBCSD Council Members: Sunny Verghese (Co-Founder and CEO, Olam), Paul Polman (CEO, Unilever and Chairman, WBCSD), and Svein Tore Holsether (CEO, Yara International). 

Commissioner quotes

The Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved without business. This report presents a quantifiable and compelling economic argument for taking action, and convincingly makes the case for systemic change in the way we do business. It is written in a language that will allow business leaders around the world to take tangible, meaningful action at scale. At company and sector level, we must drive system change in order to realize sustainable and inclusive economic growth across the world.

Peter Bakker,President and CEO, WBCSD

This report is a call to action to business leaders. We are on the edge and business as usual will drive more political opposition and land us with an economy that simply doesn't work for enough people. We have to switch tracks to a business model that works for a new kind of inclusive growth. Better Business, Better World shows there is a compelling incentive for why the latter isn’t just good for the environment and society; it makes good business sense.

Mark Malloch-Brown,Chair of the Business and Sustainable Development Commission

At a time when our economic model is pushing the limits of our planetary boundaries and condemning many to a future without hope, the Sustainable Development Goals offer us a way out. Many are now realizing the enormous opportunities that exist for enlightened businesses willing to stand up and address these urgent challenges. But every day that passes is another lost opportunity for action. We must react quickly, decisively and collectively to ensure a fairer and more prosperous world for all.

Paul Polman,CEO Unilever and Chairman, WBCSD

With 800 million people hungry, a growing population, and food production putting pressure on the climate, the SDGs are our wake-up call AND our framework for strategy. Let’s transform words into action.

Svein Tore-Holsether,CEO, Yara International

More information

  • Download the “Better Business, Better World” report and its executive summary
  • For up-to-date resources, tools, case studies and insight on the SDGs, check out WBCSD’s SDG Business Hub
  • WBCSD contact point: Filippo Veglio, Managing Director, Social Capital – veglio@wbcsd.org