Unilever, multinational consumer goods company and sustainability leader, hosted an event in London on Monday 16 May 2016 where SDSN Youth had the honour to participate. The focus of the event was on mobilising collective action to help drive progress against the SDGs as well as to mark the fifth year of progress on Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan, the company’s blueprint for sustainable growth.

 “The world gave us two great agreements, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate agreement, and it is up to us to implement them and accelerate their achievement”

-Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever.

Leaders from business, government, civil society and youth organisations joined series of action-oriented discussions. SDSN Youth's representative, Natalia Rajewska, joined the discussion on entrepreneurship and youth.

Her role was to advocate for greater collaboration between youth and businesses. While Unilever is a leader in this space, engaging youth at various stages for example through providing apprenticeship schemes and supporting young entrepreneurs, we at SDSN Youth believe more businesses should follow this outstanding example.

Youth are essential stakeholders to any business. We are the (future) employees, innovators, customers and voters. With a growing amount of young entrepreneurs, we also have great potential in becoming an important part of supply chains. Notably, many youth enterprises have a purpose of delivering sustainable growth in their communities.

On the other hand, businesses have a fundamental role in supporting youth in both emerging and developed nations in our collective journey to achieving the SDGs. They can do so through, for example:

  • Developing space for youth to design solutions and start-off enterprises;
  • Providing training and mentorship;
  • Supporting individual enterprises through investment and technical assistance;
  • Delivering programs through cross-sector partnerships for example with local governments;
  • Offering networking opportunities. 

There are many ways business can support youth, but most importantly, businesses can also gain through this type of engagement. Youth bring innovation, fresh thinking and new insights. Private sector was an important stakeholder in designing the SDGS and now has a key role in their implementation. We hope that businesses will follow leaders such as Unilever in reaching and supporting youth to achieve the 2030 agenda.

Natalia Rajewska is the Project Lead for Partnerships at SDSN Youth and is currently based in the UK. All opinions expressed on the blog are the opinion of the authors and not of SDSN Youth. For more information about this exciting initiative, please email youth@unsdsn.org