On August 30, 2022, our Virtual Programs Manager Kim Todd interviewed Helvetas USA CEO Christian Steiner to discuss ways the private sector can partner with local and global nonprofits to help advance the United Nations’s Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), especially the first, which is to end extreme poverty.
From this valuable conversation, here are our takeaways on the impact of the private sector in bolstering the work of nonprofits like Helvetas.
Bridging the gap to life-changing resources
From connecting communities with clean water and healthy, affordable food to ensuring access to education and income-generating opportunities, Helvetas USA’s work is underpinned by the UN’s SDGs—but much of this work could not be completed without the help of private sector partners.
Touching on Helvetas’s dedication to humanitarian aid, especially in light of the situation in Ukraine, Christian shed light on the ways Helvetas relies on partners in neighboring countries to provide resources, like SIM cards, to those that have lost touch with their families and loved ones.
“For this kind of work, the private sector is a key partner for internet access, for technology, for providing these tools,” Christian explained, highlighting how important communication can be in times of crises.
In addition to this, Helvetas also turns to service-oriented businesses to work with them in developing countries, relying on their expertise for insight into the labor market and asking them to provide workforce-related resources, like skills development and job training, to lift communities out of extreme poverty.
In these ways, Christian explains that private sector companies become both actors and partners in the work to assist under-resourced populations.
Making long-term commitments and leaving lasting impacts
“Ending poverty really is the groundwork,” Christian states, for both himself, Helvetas, and the UN. Abolishing this global issue will take long-term commitment to assist communities living in poverty.
Ending poverty really is the groundwork.
“What we see in companies that partner with us … is really this long-term interest. A company that wants to sell chocolate is interested in sourcing cocoa for the next 50 years if they want to stay in business, so you have this long-term vision into sustainability that many of the private sector partners that work with us bring to the table.”
Sustained action is crucial when it comes to making a meaningful difference for any cause. More important than pledges and performative actions, which many refer to as “greenwashing” when it comes to sustainable development, it’s important for private businesses to create a long-term vision for their efforts so that they can continue to make an impact by the time of the United Nations’s 2030 goal and long after.
Providing education and exposure to wider markets and audiences
In order to bring others into the sustainable development movement, companies have to educate their stakeholders on the importance of the issue. Nonprofits, like Helvetas, rely greatly on their partners to use their platforms to generate awareness, educate, and make an impact in their markets.
Christian notes that “… private sector partners are very key to help us reach the communities, to reach the supply chains and work with them, but then also take it all the way to the consumer level and educate the consumer [about sustainability].”
When companies belong to collectives like B Corp, Fair Trade, and similar organizations, the seal present on their platforms presents new opportunities to expose stakeholders to various players in the push for sustainability:
“There are different labels that different companies adhere to, standards that they subscribe to, that show to the consumer the level of sustainability of what they’re purchasing and it’s very important to find partners that are interested in working both on the supply chain but then also in their market to access the consumer, to educate the consumer, and subscribe to long-term sustainability.”
Meeting the global challenges of the UN’s SDGs will require innovative ideas and collaboration among Conscious Leaders from both the nonprofit and private companies, especially to meet the UN’s bold goals. But when sectors work together to achieve successful collaborative projects, the positive local and global impacts that result make meeting the challenge possible.
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