This Forum was designed as an open discussion follow-up to the focus in the opening plenary on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the potential for the business community to commit to assisting in achieving them.
A clear message from Forum participants was that they have a positive view of the potential impact of the SDGs in leveraging greater corporate commitment and engagement. This is particularly true because the SDGs are designed to apply to any country, unlike the Millennium Development Goals which were focused on developing countries. As a result, volunteer activities undertaken “at home” will be contributing to the SDGs. This will increase the level of participation which, in turn, will help increase awareness and understanding. While “cross border volunteering” will remain an important asset, it is not “the holy grail” but rather one of many different approaches to be used as appropriate.
It was noted that a commit to focus corporate volunteering, philanthropy and other CSR activities on the SDGs potentially will require retooling within the company. What will this mean for overall CSR strategy, for philanthropic priorities, for the focus of volunteer efforts, for employee engagement strategies? How will companies map their efforts to global goals not just to their own strategy? An important starting point may be assessment of what the SDG challenges are in each country where the company does business.
Companies will be challenged to help employees map their volunteering and to see the connections to the SDGs, both for volunteering done within corporate focus areas and personal volunteering since SDGs are and can be local. Companies and employees also will be challenged to take responsibility for impacts, not just inputs.
Prepared by Kenn Allen, Moderator
Richard Dictus took position as Executive Coordinator of United Nations Volunteers in 2013, bringing over 25 years of experience, in increasingly responsible positions, with various agencies in the United Nations system. Through his leadership, UNV is playing a major role in ensuring the recognition of volunteering as a strategic asset to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. He is actively building strong volunteer-based partnerships with the private sector.
SUE STEPHENSON is a Corporate Social Responsibility executive with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, leads the strategic development and execution of the Community Footprints social and environmental responsibility program. Sue is charged with expanding the company’s global social impact efforts through initiatives focused on child well-being, hunger and poverty relief, and environmental responsibility.
KENN ALLEN is founder and president of Civil Society Consulting Group LLC with which IAVE contracts to provide its Secretariat. He also serves as Senior Consultant to IAVE’s leadership. He is known globally for his research, writing and consulting in support of corporate volunteering and as author of The Big Tent: Corporate Volunteering in the Global Age.