7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Driving social change in the private sector

Driving social change in the private sector

Are young people the key to making the private sector take corporate social responsibility (CSR) seriously?

Thursday, June 8, 2017 - 09:00 to 10:15

Key points

  • There is a demand for blended finance, where private and public money is used together to support social ventures.
  • Not all private sector action on social responsibility is cost-effective.
  • There should be action to encourage young people wanting to make a difference within the corporate sector.
  • Young people may find it frustrating that there is not much change in the corporate sector and that CSR is not fully integrated into business strategy.


Integrating trade and development, which means involving the private sector in the public sector’s goals, is central to development policy. The corporate sector embraces social responsibility to various degrees. Consumers hope to contribute to fair wages and fair working conditions, but cannot always tell whether the production of consumer goods and services is sustainable.

Sustainable production must be coordinated at governmental level, but efforts should involve the corporate sector which in turn should be made aware of the importance of sustainable sourcing of production.

The public sector is hoping for more substantial private sector investment in social development. Young people must be involved in delivering aid programmes that develop public-private partnerships, especially with Asian and African countries and in areas that involve the companies’ core businesses as well as taking into consideration their environmental impact and the need for infrastructure.

The Sustainable Development Goals can be turned into market opportunities, in particular the goals addressing climate change, food security and the growth in urbanisation. Private sector resources should be deployed, but the challenge is to make this involvement cost-effective.

Young people are key; they should be empowered with skills and resources to help carry out a corporate social agenda that brings about real change.

The private sector again would commit to allocating resources for innovation that supports the circular economy, or a whole system of sustainable production chains and the use of renewables. However, there must be scope to achieve profit where the corporate sector is involved.

The challenge is to bring about change. There are a great number of impediments to a future of sustainable production, where all sectors need to be involved, not just the producers of physical consumer goods.

The corporate sector’s timeframe tends to be too limited to short-term profit-seeking, whereas the sustainability agenda requires a long-term perspective that considers social development and environmental impact.

These new concepts should be integrated into the corporate sector’s benchmarking to go against the short-term financial focus that currently dominates. For many companies, it is a challenge to integrate corporate social responsibility with their core businesses. At present, social outcomes are often not measured and, for companies to start doing so, there has to be a change of mindset. 


The corporate sector needs leaders that care about its social and environmental impact. Value-based leadership applies strategies for social change that appeal to young people. Goals for a company’s social impact have to be integrated into its business model. Taking CSR commitments a step further, there should be a focus on requiring companies to become socially progressive.

Organised by

    Christiaan Rebergen
    Director General for International Cooperation
    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands
    Katrin Häuser
    On Purpose
    Aouatif Tawfik
    Sustainability Manager
    Alexander Zdravkovic
    Manager, Strategic Growth and Programme Delivery
    Cardno Emerging Markets
    Miganoush Magarian
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