Strong business, strong partnerships and sustained progress: The private sector and the SDGs

The U.S. Agency for International Development in Indonesia partnered with Chevron and the government of Aceh to establish a new state-of-the-art technical school. Businesses can help ensure that Sustainable Development Goals are met by working with local organizations and officials to address challenges. Photo by: USAID Indonesia

Over the past 15 years, we’ve seen a lot of progress in key areas of development due in great part to the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals. The global partnerships and collaborative networks that developed as a result of the MDGs charted a path toward a new set of development goals. As governments around the world prepare to adopt the new Sustainable Development Goals, business has a notable role in their success.

In fact, the last of the 17 goals calls for improving the “means of implementation” by “strengthening the global partnership” for development. In other words, business, along with civil society and governments, has an important role to play in helping societies to grow and prosper. The private sector can — and should — be a vital force for breaking the cycle of poverty and disease, improving education, and driving economic development and prosperity.

My company has learned from more than a century of operating in developing regions around the world that our business success is deeply linked to society’s progress. Chevron contributes to development by supporting long-term economic growth and prosperity in the communities where we operate. We demonstrate our commitment to sustainable development in many ways through our community programs and our global commitments. Our business, supported by strategic environmental and social objectives, helps drive development as we focus on safely and reliably producing and delivering energy; protecting people and the environment; and investing in communities’ health, education, and economic development.

We can’t do this alone — partnership is one of our Chevron Way values. To make development partnerships truly successful for companies and communities, businesses should convene and work with local organizations and officials, national leaders, and other stakeholders to address challenges in ways that are scalable and enduring. We will need to collectively strengthen the links between energy access, human development, community resilience, and economic growth.

Throughout my career, I have seen the benefits of working in concert with partners to foster development. One of our first major partnerships was with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Angola. Since this partnership, we have entered into major new initiatives in Nigeria, Bangladesh, Thailand, Kazakhstan and the eastern United States. Each partnership involves multiple stakeholder relationships with development agencies, foundations, nongovernmental organizations, governments, private companies and others.

This has been a journey for Chevron. Over the decades, our approach to development has fundamentally shifted from donors to partners; from building bricks to building capacity; from short-term projects to multiyear endeavors, and from celebrating a program launch to celebrating results.

We have learned many lessons from these partnerships. First, we have learned that “engagement” with partners is often much more important to the success of the project than the level of funding committed. Second, we have learned the value of patience, compromise and flexibility. Third, the alignment of social and business drivers between partners is essential to create enduring, successful partnerships.

Forging strategic on-the-ground relationships can result in more streamlined business operations and increased returns in the future for multinational corporations, developing nations and their people. As the world commits to a shared vision through the SDGs, the private sector must seize the opportunity to fuel long-term development and business success, while helping to improve the quality of life for all.

Sustaining Development is a three-month online series exploring the post-2015 development agenda hosted by Devex in partnership with Chevron, FXB, Global Health Fellows Program II, Philips, UNIDO, U.N. Volunteers and the U.S. Council for International Business. We will look at the practical steps needed to move the sustainable development goals from concept to reality. Visit the campaign site here and join the conversation using #SustainDev.

The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex's editorial views.

About the author

  • Steve Green

    Stephen W. Green is vice president of policy, government and public affairs for Chevron Corp., a position he has held since 2011. He is responsible for U.S. and international government relations, all aspects of communications, and the company’s worldwide efforts to protect and enhance its reputation.