Stories of our impact

Small businesses, big ambitions

How businesses can make the world a better place

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and help ensure equality of opportunity for people across the world. They include vital areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice.

As the United Nations’ global development network, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is uniquely placed to help implement the SDGs. It works in some 170 countries and territories.

But the SDGs need investment, an entrepreneurial mindset and business acumen to get these ideas off the ground. And what better place to find this than in small and medium-sized businesses?

Accelerating big ambitions

That’s why, with Deloitte’s help, UNDP set up the SDG Accelerator. The programme accelerates solutions for the SDGs through the development of new business models, products and services. It’s funded by the Danish Industry Foundation and is being tested in Denmark over the next two years with 30 Danish small and medium-sized industrial companies. The aim is then to roll out the Accelerator to other countries across the world.

The benefits for businesses are two-fold. More and more companies are realising that the SDGs are important for their own innovation, growth and competitive performance. After all, there could be valuable gains for those businesses that can develop commercial solutions to tackle some of the biggest challenges we face as a global population. But they are also a powerful framework for strengthening the companies’ purpose narrative and for attracting talented people, customers and investors.

Bahare Haghshenas, senior manager in Monitor Deloitte, who is working on the project, explains: “With the SDG Accelerator, we see companies striking out in new directions and embracing more sustainable models. By applying their creativity and by working with experts from the UN and innovation facilitators from Deloitte, small and medium-sized companies take the driver’s seat in solving some of the persistent challenges we face in society and developing new business opportunities.”

Cross-border problems and teams

By bringing together a Consulting team from both Denmark and the UK, we’re supporting these small and medium-sized companies to develop their ideas. Using expertise from Deloitte Digital and Monitor Deloitte, we’re using technology and tools as part of a six-month innovation process.

This involves a range of workshops, including on problem framing (developing a well-defined description of the issue the business wants to address based on what users or customers need), ideation (when they come up with a multitude of ideas that address the problem and choose the best option), enrichment (when they test assumptions and improve these as necessary) and integration (when they integrate, produce, distribute and sell the solution to users or customers). After we have helped the companies develop the businesses cases behind their ideas, we then showcase them at a presentation event for some of the country’s leading potential investors and business angels.

Companies taking part in the programme include a cleantech firm that is finding ways for utility providers to recycle their heavy maritime waste and equipment, a business that has developed a leasing scheme for children’s shoes so they are reused several times, and a catering provider using a tool that feeds back insights on consumer preferences and behaviour to reduce their food waste.

Stine Junge, UNDP, Private Sector Specialist, says: “With the SDG Accelerator, UNDP needed an implementing partner, like Deloitte, that could supplement the competencies we have within the area of sustainable development. Our work brings together Deloitte’s industry knowledge, practical experience of working with business development and agility in delivery, and UNDP’s global presence, expertise and experience with promoting sustainable human development. UNDP Nordic Office and Monitor Deloitte in the Nordics have a shared vision and ambition. We believe that if we are to reach the SDGs we will need to accelerate innovative SDG solutions. Our skill sets as organisations cater for different types of innovation and by combining them we become stronger.”


Stephanie Dobbs

Public Relations Manager

+44 20 7303 2636

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