“Recovery remains fragile and uneven amid the lingering pandemic, persistent labour market challenges, ongoing supply chain disruptions, rising inflation and looming debt traps, to chart a new course, we need all hands-on deck, especially the global business community.” António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.  

Private sector partnerships have the unique ability to mobilize substantial financial resources to support sustainable initiatives. By aligning their operations and strategies with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda principles, businesses can commit to driving positive change. These commitments can help attract conscientious consumers and investors. 

 The United Nations (UN) has engaged in various partnerships with big companies to advance the SDGs and to address global challenges and inequality. Some examples of such partnerships include: 

Unilever: Unilever, a global consumer goods company, has partnered with the UN to support several SDGs, including those related to health and hygiene, gender equality, and responsible consumption. Unilever’s corporate partnership with UNICEF has been in existence since 2012, with over $30 million committed to UNICEF's Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programme. The partnership aims to improve access to crucial facilities for vulnerable communities, particularly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, helping to reduce the prevalence of waterborne diseases, enhance school attendance (especially for girls and children who spend copious amounts of time trekking long distances to collect water) and promote better public health. 

IKEA: Since 2010, the IKEA Foundation and UNHCR have cultivated a transformative partnership with a geographic focus on eastern Africa, particularly in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. This collaboration has extended to 16 countries, providing substantial contributions totalling over $198 million in cash and in-kind donations. This unique partnership has reshaped UNHCR's approach to private-sector collaboration, ushering in innovative ways of addressing refugee challenges. It encompasses access to clean energy, economic inclusion, and financial empowerment. The impact has been profound, touching hundreds of thousands of refugees and host community members, amplifying awareness among millions of IKEA customers and staff, and sparking interest in refugee self-reliance across humanitarian and broader sectors. This strategic alignment showcases how global corporations can effectively contribute to solutions, aiding emergency responses, scaling innovative ideas, and enhancing refugees' quality of life with dignity. 

Both partnerships exhibited successes in terms of impact, collaboration, and innovative approaches. Challenges in these partnerships often revolve around aligning different organizational priorities, navigating complex implementations, and optimizing resource allocation for maximum impact.  

Private sector partnerships are pivotal in steering us towards a sustainable future. These collaborations unite diverse stakeholders – businesses, governments, civil society, and more – to engineer transformative solutions addressing our world's most pressing challenges. However, navigating these partnerships can be intricate, with the need to align diverse priorities, and highlight the importance of clear communication, shared values, and adaptable strategies for maximum impact.  

The   Staff College offers a highly rated course focused on private-sector partnerships. This course serves to unravel the intricacies of these partnerships and equip participants with the skills needed to overcome challenges and harness opportunities in this realm. By engaging in interactive learning, including live webinars facilitated by experts, learners gain insights into executing effective partnerships for sustainable development. This learning journey empowers participants to amplify their impact, guiding them to strategically cultivate collaborations that steer us toward a greener, more prosperous future.  

To learn more about the ‘Private Sector Partnerships for Sustainable Future’ course use this link.    


The views expressed in the blog piece are of the Author and are not representative of the organisations views on the topic.