Reducing inequality is a Sustainable Development Goal that the private sector should help realise (along with the other SDGs). What does the evidence around public-private partnerships thus far suggest about the role of private sector involvement in addressing inequality within and between nations?
The UN SDGs greatly expand the scope of global development aims. By introducing goals not only to reduce inequalities directly but also for 'decent work and economic growth' and 'responsible production and consumption', the SDGs expect much greater recognition of inequality in its myriad forms. Recognising the challenges of tackling inequality, the UN has called for a revitalised global partnership that includes the private-sector working together with governments and civil society. India, for example, has legislated to require corporations to engage in CSR. In Africa, public-private partnerships bring private capital into relatively high-risk development projects, with aid finance reallocated to leverage private investment into such schemes. Such changes may indicate a shift in development roles, giving greater influence to profit-oriented actors at the expense of concerns for social, environmental and economic justice. On the other hand, the involvement of corporations might provoke greater societal pressure for conventional growth-focused business models to become more 'inclusive' by placing greater weight on poverty and equality objectives. And what role might not-for-profit development organisations play in ensuring that inequality is addressed not simply as an issue of economics but also as one of politics and, ultimately, power? We welcome papers from diverse perspectives and disciplines that engage with these rapid and significant changes in the Business and Development relationship. Papers can address the issues at a generalized conceptual level, or provide insight or examples at the level of particular sectors of the economy or geographies.