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The role of the private sector in addressing sustainable development challenges

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At Ericsson, we have been a leading voice from the private sector for many years on the power of public-private partnerships in advocating for a more sustainable future. Partnerships take many shapes but fill critical roles in driving sustainability advocacy.

With the backdrop of next week’s UN General Assembly, we will be meeting with global leaders to discuss how we can use our collective strength to further sustainable development and the role that technology can play in addressing a number of global challenges, such as scaling up access to health and education, women’s empowerment, peace-building and humanitarian response.

We will discuss how – in our capacity as global leaders – we can create a culture of engagement and action from the grassroots to government offices, and from conference rooms of the UN to the boardrooms of private enterprises. We will discuss how to catalyze future collaboration for greater impact and scale.

The world has changed significantly since 2000, when the Millennium Development Goals were adopted, not least in terms of technological advancements and broadband deployment. Ericsson regularly publishes a Mobility Report, where this phenomenal growth is detailed. In 2000, very few companies were included in conversations about global development, at least not the type of conversations that extend beyond philanthropy. At that time, broadband was in its infancy, and few outside the sector could have predicted the enormous potential it would have to support access to education and health care, and to even improve lives.

While strong economic growth in the developing world has helped lift millions out of poverty, global population growth, modern lifestyles and consumption are now stretching the limits of the planet’s resources. During this time, technological advances in ICT have radically transformed the way people communicate and lead their lives, opening up possibilities to decouple CO2 emissions, for example, from group, by ushering in a service-based rather than a product-based economy, and transforming the ways that electricity grids, public transportation, and many other basic services are provided. Research increasingly shows a connection between broadband penetration and GDP growth, and it is clear that ICT can play a vital transformative role in helping to put the world on a more sustainable path.

It has been equally important to find the voice to help realize this enormous potential. These benefits have been discussed within the ICT sector for many years, but our sector is playing an ever larger role in advocating the need to put the world on a path to a low-carbon economy, and at Ericsson we participate in a number of public-private partnerships that support this aim. There are a number of exciting developments in Connect to Learn and Refugee reconnection, as well as in our collaboration with UN-Habitat on sustainable urbanization.

By working in public-private partnerships to provide reliable information, innovative and scalable solutions, and multi-stakeholder policy recommendations, companies can help drive sustainability advocacy and make their voice heard in this global conversation in a way that can have a transformational impact. The opportunity is there, but the challenge is to translate the opportunities and benefits from the business world into a common multi-stakeholder language that matches the language and goals of policy makers. We hope the post-2015 process will open up for giving business a greater voice in providing scalable and commercially sustainable solutions to some of the most pressing problems.

Watch this space for updates from the week.

Written by Elaine Weidman-Grunewald

Elaine Weidman-Grunewald is Chief Sustainability and Public Affairs Officer at Ericsson. She joined the company in 1998, and she is responsible for a number of public-private partnerships that explore the use of Ericsson’s core technology to solve some of the world’s most compelling challenges and help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. She is a leading advocate of Technology for Good and represents Ericsson in a number of external fora including the Broadband Commission for Digital Development and the United Nations Global Compact.

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