June 09, 2016

Yara urges action on SDGs

Can the Norwegian concept of ‘dugnad’ inspire action on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

Yara, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NHO and ForUM hosted the event – which brought together 300 leaders from the UN, business, civil society and politics to discuss how Norway could be a leader in meeting the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?

Yara CEO Svein Tore Holsether opened the seminar by explaining how the Norwegian concept of ‘dugnad’ could help turn the goals into action.

“We have this word in Norwegian that is hard to translate: Dugnad. Although it translates to something like ‘voluntary work’, anyone who has kids at school or has lived in an apartment building in Oslo, knows that a dugnad is not really voluntary.”

“In many ways, achieving the sustainable development goals is a dugnad. You can think it’s voluntary, but it’s really not.”

High-profile guests included Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende and Special Adviser to Ban Ki-moon for Sustainable Development, Dr. David Nabarro, among several other well-known business, NGO and political representatives.

Putting agriculture on the agenda

Sustainable development goals leadership seminar

Yara’s involvement in the SDG process in September last year contributed to agricultural productivity being part of the 17-point action plan.

Two of the goals are closely linked to agriculture: Ending hunger and combating climate change. In addition, SDG 11 highlights air quality making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable – something Yara can also contribute to with our industrial solutions.

Holsether, pointed to the Patient Procurement Platform (PPP) as an example of how Yara is helping to achieve the SDGs as part of its core business. Together with the World Food Program, Yara is a key backer of the PPP, which supports smallholder farmers with improved market access and the means to improve their yields.

Holsether explained why this is important for Yara. “We’ve seen too many examples of food not reaching the end market. We have to find ways to set up the logistics and infrastructure around food production so that we create a self-sufficient ecosystem. We can’t do that alone, we need banks to provide finance to the farmers and we need a market to consume the produce at the other end of the value chain.”

Partnership is the key

Special Adviser to Ban Ki-moon for Sustainable Development, Dr. David Nabarro

Referring to Holsether’s explanation of ‘dugnad’, Dr. David Nabarro, said it would only be possible to achieve the SDGs if business, governments and civil society worked together.

“This is it. There’s no plan B, and there’s no planet B,” he quipped.

Nabarro also pointed out that Yara was a great example of a company taking action. “Yara is a sustainability business that has sustainability at the heart of its core model of growth and it’s setting an example for other business around the world,” he said.

The need for collaboration was echoed by several speakers including Minister of Foreign Affairs, Børge Brende, and Vice President of the Africa Development Bank, Dr. Frannie Leautier, who both focused on the role private investment could play in such partnerships.

“In Norway we are increasingly focusing on what the private sector can do in supporting and being a partner in reaching the SDG agenda. We will have to rely on many of the companies here today, not only Yara,” Børge Brende.

While the African Development Bank speaker said: “A central challenge is how to enhance collaboration between the public and the private sector in order to unleash the private sector’s vast potential as an engine for transformation.”