The UN Sustainable Development goals work towards eradicating poverty from the world and secure better livelihoods for all in an environmentally sustainable way. The UN member states have together in 2015 agreed on the goals and the related action plan for 2016-2030.
International development banks are investing 150 billion USD annually to promote SDGs, thereby also contributing further to the growth of markets for innovative and sustainable solutions that address them. For example in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Austria companies are already strongly involved in SDG markets. We in Business Finland believe that Finnish companies have a lot to offer and gain, as SDG-related markets are still largely an underutilized opportunity.
In the Business with Impact (BEAM) program we have used the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to activate companies to extend their business in developing markets and evaluate their innovation projects both from a business and sustainability impact perspective. In this blog we'll briefly showcase through examples how we work with the SDGs in the BEAM program. Our aim is to help Finnish companies and their partners achieve business with impact in developing markets, globalize and grow. Therefore, we have funded a range of significant innovative projects during the past years.
The first three sustainable development goals refer to poverty and hunger eradication, healthier life and better standards of living for people of all ages as the fundamentals of life. They are ambitious aims since 8 percent of the global population, or some 600 million people, still live under the poverty line.
Development aid remains important but companies also have many possibilities to contribute to these goals through their businesses. The BEAM program has funded several projects to develop agricultural and secure better health in developing countries for, one interesting example being an innovative way to prevent mosquito bites in malaria prone areas through a cost-efficient and simple solution.
The next sustainable development goals relate to education and promotion of egalitarian societies through inclusive and good education and possibilities for life-long learning. In this area Finland can benefit greatly from the strong reputation that we have globally in education, including new digital solutions.
Through the BEAM program we have funded projects that advance education and the availability of online courses, based on Finnish curricula adapted for developing market specificities, in South East Asia and southern Africa. Accessible education also increases equality across race and gender, thus promoting eqalitarian societies as an important cross-cutting issue in the program. Another example is a new digital platform that utilizes artificial intelligence to matches job seekers with employers and provides career advice for Kenyans in a smart and affordable way.
In Finland and other highly industrialized countries clean tap water, electricity and other critical infrastructures are taken as given. In developing markets access to clean water, sanitation, affordable and safe energy and other necessities are often be hampered by poor infrastructures in the built environment, lowering the overall quality of living. Functioning and environmentally sustainable infrastructures also promote entrepreneurship, investments and sustainable economic growth.
Finland is renowned for its' well-functioning and sustainable infrastructures and participatory approach to developing the built environment. In the BEAM program examples of interesting and SDG-compatible topics that we have funded include digital solutions for participatory civil engineering in Tanzania, electric mobility solutions in India and solar off-grid solutions for accessing clean water. A recent significant project is led by Valmet , a large Finnish multinational with the aim to develop new multi-purpose energy solutions and business models in South East Asia.
Climate change mitigation is critical for many sustainable development goals. Climate change is evolving rapidly and needs to be addressed proactively also in developing markets through more sustainable consumption and production, exploration of oceans, lakes and seaways, forests and lad.
One widespread challenge in many African countries is desertification that is disrupting local ecosystems and strengthening unsustainable urbanization. One interesting and new approach to this challenge is a recent project in the BEAM program that pilots solutions for the use of land improvement and irrigation systems in cost-effective forest growth and carbon sequestrating, involving the energy company St1, other SMEs and research groups.
The final two sustainable development goals emphasize peace, justice, strong institutions and new partnerships for reaching all goals. These are generic goals for ensuring that all people can live in peaceful, just and functioning societies, and that societal actors come together and build new partnerships.
These generic goals are also generic to BEAM in the sense that Finland also is showcased as an example of a peaceful, just and networked country through the projects that it assesses and funds and through the partnerships that it facilitates with various actors in developing markets. The BEAM program has also partnered with NGOs such as UNDP and Save the Children to advance both business and sustainable development goals.
Companies need new competencies, business models and partnerships to enter rapidly growing markets related to the sustainable development goals. In Denmark the Danish Industry Foundation has funded an accelerator at the UNDP for SMEs with the aim to help companies align their business models and funding plans with the sustainable development goals.
The BEAM program is organizing sparring workshops together with Finnpartnership with similar aims and is currently looking into opportunities to collaborate in this area with UNDP in Copenhagen. In addition, all funding applications are assesses both from the perspectives of innovativeness, business potential and sustainable development goals. Since the BEAM program is jointly funded with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we can also utilize the expensive networks and understandings that the ministry has related to development impact and developing countries.
Are you interested in expanding your business to developing markets? Read more about our activities through our newsletter or reach out to us. Our website also contains information on activities and opportunities related to development banks as well as how you can align your businesses with the sustainable development goals.
Text: Sari Kola-Nyström & Christopher Palmberg