Bridging the Gap: Connecting Danish Companies to the United Nations Ecosystem
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have long been a hallmark of Danish business and enterprise. Now, with the Global SDG Business Hub and the Danish UN Procurement Network, 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 to 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.
Denmark In New York spoke to Louise Lund Harpøth, Senior Commercial Adviser at Denmark in New York, about how the SDGs create value for Danish companies while achieving social good and what advice she can impart to companies seeking to work strategically with the SDGs and the United Nations system in the near future.
Denmark In New York: Tell us a little bit about your role as Senior Commercial Adviser at Denmark In New York. What do you do and how do you help Danish companies spread their wings in the United States?
Louise Lund Harpøth: My role is, simply put, to assist Danish companies who would like to enter, or expand in, the United States market. For the former, I help by providing them with information about the United States relevant to their line of business. Based on that research, and costs associated with the set-up of the company, we then together determine whether it makes financial sense for them to enter the market. For the latter, I help them by creating events and opening more doors for them to new potential clients in the United States. In many ways, I act as their boots-on-the-ground and convey new information that is relevant to their business as soon as it comes up here in the market.
Of course, as I am based in New York, I also have a strong focus on the United Nations where Danish companies are formidable contenders for procurement contracts, particularly in areas affecting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Why is it so important for Danish companies to keep UN procurement on their radar, particularly when working with the Sustainable Development Goals? And what kind of strategic approach should companies adopt when aiming for a successful UN bid
Louise Lund Harpøth: The United Nations purchases goods and services worth almost $19 billion every year and most of the goods and services that are procured support the work of the UN with the Sustainable Development Goals. Denmark ranks 8th in the world for the amount of goods and services that are sold to the UN, which is remarkable for our relatively small country. In this way, Danish companies who support the Goals have an opportunity to be highly successful in tenders on which they choose to bid. It is important that the company is clear about their sustainability strategy when they bid on the procurement opportunities that arise and ensure that they are extremely thorough in answering the questions which are presented in the tenders. Lastly, it is important that the company is patient and not simply looking for quick wins. Working with the United Nations is a marathon — not a sprint.
You work very closely with Danish design and communications firm Phoenix Design Aid (PDAid) and they are a great example of a Danish company who have created success within the UN Procurement market through their support of the SDGs, demonstrated most recently by their launch of a partnership with the UN’s SDG Action Campaign. What will PDAid be doing for UN SDG Action Campaign and what makes the partnership between the two so unique?
Louise Lund Harpøth: The main goal of the new partnership between Phoenix Design Aid and the UN SDG Action Campaign is to help create awareness of, and support for, the UN SDG Action Campaign so that the two organizations together can further the worldwide implementation of the 17 goals for sustainable development. Phoenix Design Aid will fulfill this support for SDG Action Campaign by supporting advocacy efforts through graphic and digital design to support exhibition and event services and especially merchandise products.
The partnership with the UN SDG Action Campaign is unique because it is the continuation of a collaboration between Phoenix Design Aid and UNDP which has already existed for 20 years. But it is also entirely synergistic as Phoenix Design Aid has been adhering to sustainable practices for many years before the United Nations adopted the 17 goals in September 2015.
How can other Danish companies leverage the SDGs to their advantage when entering the US market or working with the United Nations?
Louise Lund Harpøth: There is a proven business case behind the support of the SDGs since all companies stand to gain from more resilient communities, reliable access to natural resources and an educated and healthy population to support their workforce. In addition to this, the demand for companies who support the SDGs is highly consumer driven and companies who do not openly state their support are finding it harder to compete against competitors who do while also finding it more difficult to attract investors. Denmark has a great reputation for being a frontrunner in sustainability. But it is important to note that there is also a global element of so-called ‘Greenwashing’ going on and so it’s imperative that companies ensure that they fully live up to the high standards which are set and that they can substantiate their commitments with results on the ground.
What kind of opportunities are open to Danish companies seeking to work in the US and with the UN, especially on the Sustainable Development Goals?
Louise Lund Harpøth: There are, generally speaking, enormous opportunities for Danish companies because they are oftentimes already established in a way that complies with, and supports, the SDGs. This puts them one step ahead of companies from many other countries where sustainability has not been on the agenda for quite as long as it has been in Denmark. We have a very broad catalogue of sustainable solutions from renewable energy to circular economy. Danish companies who work within the field of Sustainable City Development are particularly sought after at the moment as more and more US cities are realizing the need to take action now if they are going to mitigate the effects of climate change. We have a lot of great partners here in the US and I am always happy to present inspirational Danish solutions to them.
Denmark In New York will be organizing a UN Procurement Seminar in Copenhagen in 2020. For more information, please contact Louise Lund Harpøth at firstname.lastname@example.org and Sebastian Rodas Medeiros at email@example.com.