A Match Made in Denmark
Bringing Danish Business & the Global Sustainability Agenda Together
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have long been a hallmark of Danish business and enterprise. Now, with the newly launched Global SDG Business Hub, Denmark’s Trade Council in New York — together with the Permanent Mission of Denmark to the United Nations — is helping Danish companies form international partnerships to increase global business opportunities and, most importantly, build a sustainable future for all.
Sustainability. It’s the catchword that has captured imaginations, riveted industries and captivated global leaders. And, since the unveiling of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations in 2015, it has been the thematic driver of an array of global initiatives aimed at reversing the effects of climate change and improving the lives of billions around the world.
For Denmark, however, “sustainability” means something more. Values of resilience, sustainability and social responsibility have long been at the heart of Danish culture and enterprise. But as Danish companies continue to scale up business around the globe, Denmark’s Trade Council in New York is now initiating and facilitating key relationships with multilateral institutions through its Global SDG Business Hub, helping to grow their global imprints abroad and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals for all.
#DenmarkInNY spoke to Joan Hentze, Deputy Consul General at Denmark in New York and founder of the Global SDG Business Hub, and SDG team members Carina Sølling Damm and Sebastian Rodas Medeiros about how the SDGs create value for Danish companies while achieving social good and what advice they could impart to companies seeking to work strategically with the SDGs in the near future.
How does Denmark in New York work with Danish companies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals?
Joan Hentze: As the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, our goal is to increase business opportunities for Danish companies and make a meaningful impact on the world through sustainable solutions. We believe that Denmark has a global responsibility and opportunity to be a leader in socially responsible commerce. The Danish government’s commitment to social responsibility gives Denmark and Danish companies the opportunity to teach much larger countries and economies how to be more sustainable. Sustainability has gone from being niche to mainstream and Denmark has led the way in its commitment to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Accordingly, Danish companies can leverage this commitment to be more competitive in the global marketplace.
Through the creation of the Global SDG Business Hub, Denmark in New York has utilized its unique position to merge global activities with local engagement — ultimately leading to increased economic growth and employment in Denmark.
We work strategically around the UN platforms through partnerships both in New York but also on the global scene. We set up bilateral meetings, identifying collaboration opportunities with peers, customers, suppliers, academia and nonprofit organizations, as well as across industries, to achieve mutually beneficial solutions, leverage networks, achieve scale and share responsibility. Furthermore, we collaborate with governments, cities and civil society.
With the Global SDG Business Hub, we offer bespoke services to Danish companies to help position the companies for SDG opportunities on a global as well as local markets. Tailored solutions and collaboration with governments are key, which is why we make use of Denmark’s global network and insights in co-creation with Danish companies in order to reach the 17 sustainable goals before 2030.
Why is an initiative like the Global SDG Business Hub important?
Carina Sølling Damm: The SDGs cannot be realized without business participation. That’s a fact. A potential of more than $12 trillion opportunity awaits companies that adopt and tailor their business activities to comply with the SDGs.
To that point, the SDGs require a large amount of investment and collaboration. Partnerships need to be formed to share knowledge and create information pools for both countries and businesses to help them work towards achieving the SDGs. Strategic partnerships provide opportunities for business to achieve more than they can alone. Capacity building helps builds stronger economies in developing countries, enhancing the commercial environment.
Our approach is highly strategic, the location of the hub in NYC enables a unique collaboration between commercial, political, and civil society interests to further the SDGs. We engage Danish companies to develop new business models and engage in global activities to turn projects into growth opportunities by tailoring solutions to local market conditions. Governments must take the lead but businesses are providing essential solutions and resources that put our world on a more sustainable path.
How can the SDGs create value for Danish companies?
Sebastian Rodas Medeiros: Companies that are able to integrate the SDGs into their business strategy will be able to stay ahead of regulatory developments, anticipate future trends, and tap into growth markets.
The implications of the SDGs are far-reaching and making the right decisions on the SDGs will provide the foundations for the right dialogue with governments and communities, and help businesses identify the opportunities for growth as well as for risk reduction. Evidence shows that companies with higher ratings for environmental, social and governance factors, have lower costs of debt and equity. The market recognizes they are lower risk and rewards them accordingly; and generally, they outperform the market in the medium and long term. Companies must take a strategic approach and align their corporate priorities with the relevant SDGs to better engage with customers, employees and stakeholders to make a positive impact.
Do you feel that the SDGs are important to Danish companies?
JH: Absolutely! Denmark’s engagement with sustainable development is one of the precursors for the SDGs and, today, Danish companies include the SDGs in their business strategies precisely due to that fact. Companies that publicly commit to the SDGs, link their strategic priorities to the SDGs, and measure, communicate and report on their progress toward the SDGs send a strong message to customers, investors and to society as a whole that the future of our planet.
Denmark is known worldwide for its excellence in sustainability. Do you feel there is something inherently Danish about the way Danish companies develop solutions for the SDGs?
SRM: Denmark is a small country with an open economy. We are dependent on our relations with partners around the world, and depend on our trade activities in order to support our economy and our way of life. Therefore, Denmark has, as its cornerstone, a common understanding that partnerships with external actors, as well as internal collaborations between public and private actors, are key for the wellbeing of the nation. Danish companies have a long tradition of working closely with their stakeholders, integrating social and environmental responsibility into their business models and strategy. In addition to this, national policies and the promotion of new technologies and innovation have enabled Danish companies to be at the forefront of sustainable solutions in various areas, such as health, water and sanitation, energy transition, resilient and sustainable cities, and sustainable agriculture.
Danish companies have therefore been developing SDG solutions long before the SDGs were even agreed in 2015. The Danish holistic understanding and collaboration between public and private actors fits perfectly with the sustainability strategies needed for engaging private actors with the SDGs. But Danish companies are not resting on their laurels. Many Danish companies are increasingly engaging with the SDGs, promoting responsible, transparent business practices in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights and innovating new products and services to support the SDGs. Because the SDGs are a long-term investment and with 2030 around the corner, time is running out.
What is your best advice for companies who would like to work strategically with the SDGs?
CSD: The SDGs present a paradigm shift for the role of business in society. The SDGs are highly ambitious, which can seem overwhelming at first, but they present new opportunities for businesses to engage with regulators, reduce risks and innovate for value creation in growth markets. Since the SDGs touch upon a large variety of issues, the main piece of advice would be for companies to work closely with relevant partners, learn from other businesses and collaborate with governments and civil society.