• More than 70 entities have participated in a working day aimed at generating debate on sustainable development and transferring their position to the national action plan.

What is the current role of the private sector in face of long-term development? Are companies an ally for the government in this area? Do the Sustainable Development Goals provide a complete framework? Despite the progress made in recent years, the issues surrounding the role of the private sector in meeting the challenges of Agenda 2030 – the global roadmap setting out the international community’s objectives for the period 2016-2030 for eradicating poverty and promoting sustainable and equitable development – are still numerous and important. For this reason, the Spanish Global Compact Network and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (MAEC) have organised a working day in which 70 companies have participated. The final objective: to articulate and raise the experience of the business sector with a view to the future action plan and a possible national strategy.

The workshop, held in Madrid, was based on the most ambitious survey conducted in Spain on this subject to date, in which more than 1,300 large companies, SMEs and micro-SMEs participated. In this way, based on the answers obtained in this consultation and the conclusions of the session, the aim is to specify the role of business in sustainable development and to be able to prepare Spain’s evaluations for the ECOSOC High Level Political Forum, to be held in July at the United Nations. Because, as Ángel Pes, president of the Spanish Global Compact Network, has stated, the private sector is a social agent that has «the means and the talent necessary for Agenda 2030 to have the transformative effect that we need«. This opinion was shared by Cristina Pérez, General Director of Sustainable Development Policies at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, who highlighted its potential to promote SDG for reasons such as «the creation of quality employment, capacity building, the generation of knowledge and the management of indicators and results».

More specifically, the meeting focused on the level of response of companies to the UN appeal. Some of the factors that examined were: the potential of innovation, the role of leaders as a lever for transformation, or the new business opportunities that the cross-cutting implementation of SDG can bring.

On the other hand, the organisations have also identified those aspects of Agenda 2030 that affects to their activity, with the SDG 5 (Gender Equality) and 3 (Health and Welfare) being the most impacted. In this respect, is highlighting that that the 14, relating to Underwater Life, is the Objective least worked on by companies. A reality that contrasts with the weight of this industry in Spain as it is a country surrounded by coastline. In this regard, Javier Cortés, Director of the Local Networks of the Americas of UN Global Compact, recalled that «Agenda 2030 puts its weight on the local level and is built from the bottom up», while stressing the importance of public-private collaboration. In the same vein, the Ambassador on Special Mission for Agenda 2030, Juan Francisco Montalbán, encouraged companies to «be ambitious, as we will do from the Ministry in the voluntary review in July«.

Another of the keys to the session revolved around the commitments, needs and expectations of the private sector. In this regard, companies have called for the development of a national sustainable development strategy and the adoption of policies and legal frameworks. The need for resources and tools to facilitate the contribution and communication of progress on SDGs, especially for SMEs, was also mentioned, as was the power of awareness campaigns and the need for public procurement to incorporate sustainable criteria or the use of tax incentives for companies that provide criteria aligned with the SDGs.

Finally, the last round table was structured around the importance of partnerships, a subject still pending for 65% of the companies that participated in the initial survey. The remaining 35% have already seen the benefits of the power of collaboration, with synergies focused on SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth) and 12 (Responsible production and consumption).

All the conclusions, suggestions and initiatives that have emerged during this workshop will be analysed in detail and will be a part of a global report to be released in July.