5 steps to reverse sluggish progress on SDG 8 targets

Guest post by Erol Kriesepi
IOE President
Originally published on IOE website on July 17, 2018

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A newly released report by IOE and Deloitte confirms that global efforts to meet Sustainable Development Goal 8 targets are lagging. IOE President Erol Kiresepi offers his views on how to scale up corporate action.

The International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and Deloitte deliver a somber assessment on global progress towards meeting Sustainable Development Goal 8 (SDG) in a joint report entitled, Reaching SDG 8: Challenges, Opportunities, Actions.

SDG 8 calls for promoting 'sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all'. According to some experts, the success of the entire SDG agenda depends to a large extent on achieving SDG 8.

Based on extensive statistical research, the report focuses on 36 countries, including the G20 countries and a selection of developing and least developed outside of the G20.

It sums up the current situation this way: “Unless all countries rethink and re-strategize their economic and social policies soon and commit to achieving these goals by incorporating them in their regional policies, the path from the vision to reality within the timeline seems increasingly difficult.”

What is going wrong?

In terms of human development over the last five years, considerable positive progress has been made as documented by the World Bank and others.  

Despite the gains, and the fact that per capita income levels have narrowed between high-and lower-income countries over the past decade and labor productivity has marginally improved in the latter, very little success has been achieved on most of the SDG 8 targets. Among the areas where we have made little headway: increasing employment opportunities, especially for the young workforce; reducing informal employment, labor market inequality, and gender discrimination; improving resource efficiency in consumption; promoting safe and secure working environments; and improving access to financial services.

These developments are necessary for sustained and inclusive economic growth.

So why is progress so sluggish? Our report is clear that the primary reason for the slow and unequal pace of advancement in achieving SDG 8 across countries is the inability of policymakers to integrate this shared agenda and vision into national development plans and strategies. In other words, governments and businesses are struggling to translate the aspirations of the SDGS into realistic and concrete plans of action.

Step up or fail

The global community has just over a decade to ratchet up action or run the risk of failing to achieve this ambitious development agenda with devastating consequences.

This scaling up must include increased engagement by the private sector on SDGs. The private sector employs 9 out of 10 people globally and provides the goods and services that form the global economy. The future of business depends on greater commitment from companies as sustainable development fosters sustainable enterprises.

How do we move forward? To bridge the gap between the aspirational and actions on the ground, employer and business member organisations can play a pivotal role. Employer organisations worldwide have long and deep experience in translating development agendas into corporate strategies and frameworks.

Based upon the surveys done for the report, there are five main actions that business federations already offer and can expand to support their member communities in integrating these global goals into local strategies:  

  1. Drive change by raising awareness:  Run innovative digital campaigns on SDG 8 that engage small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs make up the largest segment of the business sector. These campaigns aspire to highlight the transformational impact of putting SDG 8 at the heart of corporate and economic growth strategies. They also offer concrete opportunities for both governments and business to share experiences both good and bad as well as toolkits on how even the smallest of projects can bring about big change.

  2. Organise town halls: Bring together the corporate community with public institutions at local, national and UN level in a town hall setting. There is no better way to increase understanding than by direct dialogue.

  3. Lobby government: Reach out to legislators working on national SDG 8 strategies and work with them to ensure they include conducive business environments as part of the goal.

  4. Train, train and train:  Provide workshops on the basics of SDGs and how to apply them to your business

  5. Get focused: It is easy to get overwhelmed by the number and scope of SDGs especially for SMEs that need to get through the next business cycle. To alleviate businesses already pushed to the limit, employer federations can help them prioritise and focus on the SDGs most relevant to their business, rather than trying to address them all - which can be overwhelming to say the least.

If there are any lingering doubts about the urgency of the need to scale up our action, just try to imagine what the world may be like if we do nothing.

If genuine progress is to be made on SDG 8 targets, the UN and employers and business federations must do more together to help businesses understand and apply SDGs.

Employer organisations can be the key to unlocking the private sector’s resources to support, and even lead on, achieving the goals.


Originally posted on July 17 through IOE. Read more here.

Synergies Across Sectors

Business and Industry Action to Deliver SDGs

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On July 10, Business and Industry will be holding a side event on the margins of the UN High-Level Political Forum. The event will be held from 1:15 – 2:45pm at UN HQ, Conference Room F.

The focus of this event will be a review on SDG 4, 8, 10, 13, 16, 17, in alignment with the 2019 HLPF. Opening comments will be led by Lise Kingo, UN Global Compact, and Tomasz Chruszczow, High Level Champion for UNFCCC. Moderators include Shea Gopal, IOE, and Norine Kennedy, USCIB. The event will feature many speakers across various organizations that are working to achieve the SDGs, including ICC, IOE, Dairy Farmers of America, Ernst & Young Azerbaijan, and more

View the invitation below for more information.

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Hunting for “Landing Zones” at COP24 in Poland

USCIB and members attend the 24th UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference in Poland to report on and encourage business solutions towards climate issues.

Norine Kennedy at COP24

Norine Kennedy at COP24


The 24th UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (UNFCCC COP24) began on Sunday, December 2 and will run through December 14 under the Presidency of Poland, in Katowice, Poland.  On Saturday night, the negotiating groups delivered a first round of outcomes to be taken up by the Ministers arriving for the 2nd week.  Many key business issues remain incomplete or “in brackets” in the current draft “Paris Rulebook,” intended to guide putting the Paris Agreement into action.  For the week ahead, high level government representatives will be seeking “landing zones” to resolve remaining substantial divisions.

Over 30,000 are in attendance here, including USCIB members Arkema, Chevron, Mars, Novozymes and Salesforce, joining USCIB staff Norine Kennedy and Mia Lauter in tracking the complex discussions, meeting with U.S. and other government delegations and partnering with key business groups.  Here in Katowice, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) serves as focal point for business, convening daily meetings to share intelligence and organizing the UNFCCC Business Day on December 6.

Sticking topics have included provision of how to treat compensation for loss and damage, financial support to developing countries for greenhouse gas reductions and technology cooperation, the design of elements relating to carbon markets and different rules and practices that would apply to developing and developed countries. Delegates are talking about the IPCC1.5 Special Report, worrying increases in greenhouse gas emissions and tensions in France sparked by the proposed fuel tax, since rescinded by the Government of France.

COP24 is to finalize a so-called Paris Rulebook, which will provide implementation guidance on how countries put the Paris Agreement into action.

“So far, negotiations have proceeded predictably, albeit too slowly to conclude in time,” observed Kennedy, who leads USCIB policy work on the environment and climate change. “The complexity of technical and political issues obscures the real challenge: mobilizing private sector investment and innovation at a pace and scale that would advance the UNFCCC and Paris objectives.”

According to Kennedy, the general feeling among delegates is that a fair amount of political will, particularly among high-level representatives and Ministers of Environment, will be required in order to successfully conclude.

“There is no one issue that is dominating conversations,” added Kennedy. “Rather, the sheer number of issues to be negotiated and the level of technicality those issues present is daunting for Parties to manage (or business representatives to track).”

The smaller than usual U.S. delegation here is led by Trigg Talley, and includes other State Department, Energy and EPA representatives.  Next week, Assistant Secretary of State Judy Garber and Wells Griffith (White House) arrive for the high-level portion of the negotiations.

Crucial to business will be outcomes on carbon markets. Countries seem to be falling into one of two camps:

  • The view of the U.S. is that any exchange – known as an ITMO (internationally transferred mitigation outcome) – should remain between the countries undertaking the transaction, and that both countries would agree their accounting and other arrangements accordingly.

  • Other parties take the view that ITMO approval should come through a centralized UNFCCC body, and that some share of the transactions (“a share of the proceeds”) should be allocated to a central fund or other UNFCCC-determined purpose.

Also crucial to business will be the potential adoption of the Silesian Declaration on Just Transition proposed by the Polish Presidency. Many parties support the Declaration, but others feel that they haven’t had enough time to examine the proposal.

“We are flagging the number of climate topics that are spilling into other forums and key issues, such as human rights and trade,” said Kennedy. “Following discussions with the U.S. Delegation here, USCIB has asked the State Department to stand firm against any intention to use participation in the Paris Agreement as a litmus test for trade policies among nations.”

Kennedy also observed that protesters and some social media accounts continue to complain about the presence of business at COP24, asserting that their involvement here constitutes a “conflict of interest” and interferes with the ability of governments to reach an ambitious agreement.  In the week ahead, USCIB members and staff will continue to express U.S. business priorities, working closely with the Administration to promote energy innovation and advance substantive business engagement.

Read more here.