The role of business in development is no longer up for debate — but there’s much work to do on both sides to increase effectiveness and impact.
“The days when we can simply ignore what business is doing and what business can offer, I think they’re long gone,” said British Secretary for International Development Justine Greening. “We should embrace that. We should look at how we can make the most of what is potentially a huge opportunity to work more collaboratively together.”
It’s not a new sentiment, but her statement was well-received by a group of corporate and NGO leaders convened by Devex Impact at the U.K. Department for International Development headquarters in London this week.
Greening discussed the agency’s take on including business in effective development and acknowledged the challenges, as she got ready to head to the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, where she will chair a panel about what actors, networks and partnerships will define and drive progress in development.
DfID is changing and going through a process of determining how it can best work with business. It’s a new and different approach — one, she said, that has room for improvement.
Greening added that the agency and the business community are both on a journey, one that is far from the end, to figure out how to best work together.
There are many ways that DfID can help and respond to the needs of the private sector. The agency’s role may be to help identify and measure what is “good” or “responsible investment,” as well as help create business-friendly and business-responsible environments by helping to remove barriers like corruption, that make doing business and creating jobs difficult in more complex, unstable climates.
And what can companies do differently?
“I want them to engage. I want them to more carefully look at their business model to see how it can be sustainable, but to see how their dev footprint is and how it could be bigger,” said Greening.
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