Business Assembly

One UN Room

Businesses have a key role in accelerating the achievement of urban SDGs. All too often the potential of the business community to deliver on urban development objectives is missed by both city leaders that fail to constructively engage the business community in strategic development planning, and by businesses that fail to understand their potential role, together with other businesses, city authorities and civil society, in the co-creation of the urban form.  Over recent months, UN-Habitat has been actively working to refine its Business Engagement Strategy, develop new tools and strategies for engaging with business, and provide opportunities for partnerships with multiple actors within the business community. Through its Global Strategic Dialogue Series, UN-Habitat’s emerging activities with business have progressed. The first, in Mannheim, explored how the UN can shift its activities to add value to businesses with an ethical approach to sustainable urbanization in their work. The second - a UN-led Roundtable on Sustainable Floating Cities in New York - explored the same question in the context of a particular emerging thematic area of urban development. Finally, during the first UN-Habitat Assembly Business Leaders Dialogue in May 2019, businesses were given centre stage in exploring how cities can become better clients for business and how businesses can become more effective long term partners to city authorities. Responding to this dialogue, UN-Habitat has identified roles as a neutral broker in facilitating improved partnerships of cities and businesses towards the accelerated achievement of urban SDGs, and captured this in its business engagement strategy. Through the Global Strategic Dialogues, it was acknowledged that business have a responsibility to their shareholders to turn a profit, but at the same time are increasingly using sustainability metrics to quantify their impact on the public good; this shifts the issue of sustainability be beyond Corporate Social Responsibility,  but to the core of business, and is a game changer in the global quest to achieve the 2030 Agenda. The conversation has also moved from traditional business sectors – real estate, transport, construction, technology, industry etc. commonly engaged in urban development – to now engaging financial institutions, including banks, and private equity/equity markets in redefining how to shift their fiscal priorities towards sustainable urbanization. 

  • The assembly aims to explore four operational areas that enable the business to contribute more effectively to the achievement of sustainable urbanisation at scale.
  • Investment: Increasing investment in financing the urban SDGs
  • Co-creation: Incubating and upscaling innovative solutions for all in cities and human settlements
  • Joint Advocacy: Working together with business to advocate for sustainable urbanization
  • Norms and Standards: The development and adoption of global norms and standards that facilitate improved business engagement in urban development
  • The assembly will elucidate specific avenues of the collaboration of the UN and business community in these particular areas by providing concrete examples of collaboration, connecting with UN-Habitat’s strategic plan priorities, highlighting partnerships and discussing modalities for engagement.
Guiding Questions
  1. How are businesses already actively contributing to the four sustainable urbanization accelerators outlined above: investment; co-creation; advocacy and norms and standards.
  2. How do different actors in the private sector view risk and barriers to market entry differently?
  3. How can UN-Habitat work with cities to help build capacity in the development of investment-ready projects?
  4. What does it take for private equity/equity markets to take an active interest in urban projects?

Session Speakers

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