By Hunjai Lee 

At the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator emphasized the role of the private sector by mentioning “the private sector can bring both agilities in delivery and new approaches to financing the SDGs, the UN has an important role to play in creating an enabling environment for business to contribute.”

The comment has its roots from one of UNDP Strategic Plan 2018-2021, where promoting the private sector to adopt business practices that move communities towards inclusive sustainable development as well as to broaden and deepen its responsible engagement with the private sector is encouraged.

To develop a strategy on partnering with the private sector, UNDP Solomon Islands (SI) conducted a mapping exercise to determine baseline information of the business enterprises and their respective Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. This exercise was implemented between October and December 2018.

Among 2,684 registered companies, UNDP studied 171 companies which are considerable in size in terms of the number of employees and sales amounts.

Three lessons emerged from the mapping exercise.

First, there is very basic information on many business enterprises available publicly in SI. For example, a few companies operate websites or have a social media presence. And most business enterprises have not published annual reports at all. So, it is difficult to research these business entities because their information is scattered across different heterogeneous data sources.

Secondly, the awareness of SDGs is very low.

Whenever I have had meetings with numerous companies, it seems SDGs are a burden to them because they receive pressure on introducing new goals into their business policies. Despite these challenges, we found several companies have engaged in CSR activities, while others have yet to document activities because of the weak culture of making records.

Under these circumstances, we decided to focus on embedding sustainability reporting into the policies of private companies and creating incentives to attract stakeholders. There are mainly two reasons for this decision as follows:

  • This strategy can make an impact on the overall private sector. The sustainability reporting initiative can be proposed for numerous companies simultaneously. This strategy can be much used to persuade business enterprises to be involved in different partnership projects.
  • UNDP can establish an exit strategy easily by attracting local institutions. UNDP can support local institutions to take pivotal roles by providing them with incentives for sustainability reporting. Once local stakeholders will be aware of these incentives, the enabling environment of sustainability reporting can be fostered without the engagement of UNDP.

To initialize the project, we had several discussions with the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) to develop steps going forward to work together with the Private sector. SICCI agreed that sustainability reporting can assist companies to highlight their contribution to the SDGs. However, SICCI argued it is necessary for UNDP to suggest incentives to attract business enterprises. After having several in-depth discussions, SICCI agreed to follow mutual incentives as follows:

  • Change the award for Business Contribution to the Community, part of SICCI's annual Business Excellence Awards (BEA) to the award for Business Contribution to Sustainable Development and Community.
  • Allowing members of SICCI to upload their sustainability reports on SICCI homepage

In these ways, SICCI and its members, business enterprises can enjoy mutual incentives as the below table.

Table 1. Incentives between SICCI and its members (business enterprises)


Types of incentives between local business and SICCI

Uploading sustainability report

on SICCI homepage

Creating an award about SDGs

at SICCI’s award event for business

Local Business

Local companies can enhance promotion on their sustainability reports by uploading it on the SICCI homepage

Local business can apply this award much easily by referring to their sustainability reports


SICCI can raise the loyalty of their members and attract new members with proposing this incentive

SICCI can earn the reputation as the leading institution fostering the SDGs in the private sector of SI

Furthermore, I found we can extend the scope to the Solomon Islands Government (SIG). One of the biggest concerns of SIG is to implement the National Development Strategy (NDS) 2016-2035 which was established to align with SDGs and to track how the private sector mobilizes their fund for CSR activities. So, sustainability reports can be a good source for SIG to measure the private sector’s contribution to NDS. Moreover, these reports can be utilized as valuable sources for UNDP to develop a joint project with business entities. Vice versa, business enterprises can gain numerous benefits of engagement in sustainability reports with UNDP as per the below table.

Table 2. Incentives between the private sector, SIG, and UNDP


Mutual incentives of stakeholders

Private Sector

- Business entities can easily get started to compose their sustainability report with a reliable partner, UNDP

-  Sustainability reporting brings various benefits such as articulating the vision, improving the management system, motivating employees, attracting investment, enhancing reputation & brand value, and developing a competitive advantage


Sustainability report can be useful data to track the private sector’s contribution to SDGs and National Development Strategy 2016-2035


- While UNDP is attracting local businesses to participate in sustainability reporting, UNDP can naturally raise the awareness of SDGs in the private sector

- Sustainability reports of private entities can be a useful resource to develop partnership projects with certain business enterprises

How can UNDP support the private sector to develop a sustainability report?

The major way of UNDP engagement is to match the CSR policies of private companies with corresponding SDGs based on their CSR data. UNDP SI can provide this matching service thanks to numerous guides on composing sustainability reports including UN Global Compact and Global Reporting Initiative. Additionally, UNDP SI is actively providing various support such as designing and photographing if companies need extra assistance.

However, there is the biggest challenge to compose the sustainability report in SI. Due to the lack of data, there are a few ways to gauge the reliability of the information. If a local company provides fake information, it can be difficult to distinguish it. To deal with this problem, UNDP SI has contacted a limited number of companies which are mutually recommended by SICCI and the team leader Inclusive Growth team.

Under this situation, UNDP SI has contacted around 15 companies until now. Most companies showed keen interests and promised to give us their CSR data to compose sustainability reports. But most companies were too busy for their work to share their CSR data relevant to SDGs achievement. Among 15 companies, few organizations participated in publishing sustainability reports. These include Solomon Power, Solomon Telekom Company Limited, Kokonut Pacific Solomon Islands, and Jedom Organic Solomon Islands and two companies are collecting their CSR data, while others have postponed the research on the history of their CSR activities.

Fortunately, establishing incentives with SICCI has gone well. The Business Contribution to Sustainable Development and Community will be awarded on 30 November 2019.

To attract more companies and make progress faster, it is essential to appeal to the incentives of sustainability reporting to the business world in SI.

Solevaka is the ideal platform for both UNDP and the private sector. UNDP can meet the goal of sharing knowledge and information by engaging the private sector in SI, vice-versa business enterprises can expand the scope of promotion beyond SI.

Furthermore, this model can be applied to other business sectors in the Pacific. This project will help UNDP smoothly build a partnership with the private sector in different pacific countries as well.

Many countries in the Pacific have recently graduated from LDC or have met the criteria of graduation from LDCs. Solomon Islands is also preparing a smooth LDC graduation. The common trait of successful graduating countries is rapid private sector development after LDC graduation. To achieve these successes in Pacific island countries, it is important to foster private sector development. UNDP can smoothly engage the private sector into our network by attracting them into SDG's world through sustainability reporting.

Dec 3, 2019 By Akosita Talei