“What is the role of large corporations in driving sustainable development?” is a question that comes up frequently in the development conversation. “Large corporations have an integral role to play in the entire process, from many perspectives,” says Paul Dillon, senior associate at Baird’s CMC and expert in the fields of development and communications.
“First and foremost, it is vital for corporations to be familiar with the issues at hand, the debate and the changes taking place,” explains Paul. “Then, they need to assess what these factors mean for them, in terms of their own growth, development and participation in the process. This is important both for organisations that are operating within developing countries as well as those that can contribute to initiatives in the developing world in order to secure sustainable development – within which, after all, there would be many opportunities for them. Corporations have a key role as contributors to the current discourse, as influencers in relation to policy, and even as potential employers.”
Many large corporations are already involved in the field of sustainable development, while others are beginning to examine how they can participate. Such activities often fall under the corporate social responsibility agenda of companies. “There are, of course, the obvious opportunities for corporations – establishing their profile, values, culture and brand identity, and making sure these are associated with a new or enhanced kind of corporate governance and approach, aligned to key issues of development,” says Paul.
Increasingly, the corporate world is recognising that it is in sustainable development that the need and the opportunity lie. “Sustainable development is concerned with producing benefit for everyone involved in the process,” points out Paul. “The alleviation of poverty, for instance, is to be accomplished by improving health and creating business and financial opportunities. Everyone has a role to play, and everyone has to invest in producing a sustainable future. It is imperative for corporations to understand how the process works and then become active players.”