Ethical Performance
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Corporate MDG role is greater than thought

July 2010

The private sector is playing a vital and 'under-appreciated' role in contributing to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

That's the conclusion reached from the first detailed quantification of business contributions to the eight MDGs, which were agreed at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 and range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/Aids.

Research consultancy Sustainalytics, which examined the activities of a sample of 20 multinationals, estimated they have benefited 8.2 million people in the developing world over the past year. It found the impact was derived often as much from mainstream business operations as from community investment, and that the amount of MDG-beneficial activity was greater than it had expected.

The businesses had their most significant impact on alleviating poverty (MDG1), with a collective 2.5 million estimated beneficiaries from mainstream business activities and 600,000 from community investments. They further benefited more than a million through environmental sustainability projects and global partnerships.

They performed less well on gender issues, however. Only 80,000 people were deemed to have felt a positive impact from activities on maternal health (MDG5), and 300,000 on gender equality. On universal education (MDG2) and child health (MDG4), the impact was relatively small.

The report measured the positive impacts of the 20 multinationals - which included Air France, ArcelorMittal, ING, Philips, Shell and Unilever - using an 'MDG Scan' tool. Impact is calculated on the direct and indirect effect of actions on individuals. For instance, the MDG Scan estimates the impact of employment creation based on how many people depend on one job in a certain location, then multiplies this by the number of jobs provided  by the company.  

The MDGs are supposed to be fulfilled by 2015, and although concluding that the corporate contribution so far has been 'under-reported and under-appreciated', Sustainalytics says companies need to produce more products and services aimed at 'bottom of the pyramid'  customers, and to take on more responsibility for providing healthcare and education.

Sustainalytics | Global | Millennium Development Goals

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