Development opportunities

The multidimensional process of human development and ways to measure it:

1. The UN Sustainable Development Goals

Development: refers to an improvement in the quality and quantity of life. It includes social development, economic development, environmental sustainability, as well as other factors that may be considered important in improving people’s quality of life and standard of living,  including peace and stability, gender equality, happiness,  legal rights etc.

According to the Brundtline Report (1987), sustainable development is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. It includes social, economic and environmental sustainability.

As part of the effort to achieve the broad goals of sustainable development, the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, as a call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and guarantee the global well-being of people by 2030. These goals follow the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), established in 2000. The MDGs ended in 2015 and to sustain its gains, the United Nations introduced the SDGs. The UNDP provides support to governments to integrate the SDGs into their national development plans and policies in the areas of poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, economic prosperity, peace and justice.

The SDGs are made up of 17 broad objectives and a number of indicators.


For information on the progress of the SDGs, click on the detailed progress report for 2018

Goal 1 – No poverty

In 2017, economic losses attributed to disasters were estimated at over $300 billion. This is among the highest losses in recent years, owing to three major hurricanes affecting the United States of America and several countries across the Caribbean

Goal 2 – Zero hunger

In 2016, 26 countries experienced high or moderately high levels of general food prices, which may have negatively affected food security. In 2017, 151 million children under age 5 suffered from stunting (low height for their age), 51 million suffered from wasting (low weight for height), and 38 million were overweight

Goal 3 –  health and well-being

In 2018, the global adolescent birth rate is 44 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19, compared to 56 in 2000. The highest rate (101) is found in sub-Saharan Africa.

Goal 4 – Quality education

Enrollment in primary education in developing countries has reached 91 per cent but 57 million primary-age children remain out of school. 617 million youth worldwide lack basic mathematics and literacy skills.

Goal 5 – Gender inequality

Globally, around 2017, an estimated 21 per cent of women between 20 and 24 years of age reported that they were married or in an informal union before age 18. This means that an estimated 650 million girls and women today were married in childhood.

Goal 6 – Clean water and sanitation

Based on data from 62 out of 153 countries sharing transboundary waters, the average percentage of national transboundary basins covered by an operational arrangement was only 59 per cent in 2017.

Goal 7 – Affordable and clean energy

The share of renewables in final energy consumption increased modestly, from 17.3 per cent in 2014 to 17.5 per cent in 2015. Yet only 55 per cent of the renewable share was derived from modern forms of renewable energy.

Goal 8 – Decent work and economic growth

Globally, 61% of all workers were engaged in informal employment in 2016. Excluding the agricultural sector, 51% of all workers fell into this employment category. Men earn 12.5% more than women in 40 out of 45 countries with data.

Goal 9- Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Small and medium-sized enterprises that engage in industrial processing and manufacturing are the most critical for the early stages of industrialization and are typically the largest job creators. They make up over 90 per cent of business worldwide and account for between 50-60 per cent of employment.

Goal 10 – Reduce inequalities

Based on provisional data, among the $613 billion in total remittances recorded in 2017, $466 billion went to low- and middle-income countries. While the global average cost of sending money has gradually declined in recent years, it was estimated at 7.2 per cent in 2017, more than double the target transaction cost of 3 percent

Goal 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
Half of humanity – 3.5 billion people – lives in cities today and 5 billion people are projected to live in cities by 2030. 95 per cent of urban expansion in the next decades will take place in developing world

Goal 12 – Responsible production and consumption

The per capita “material footprint” of developing countries grew from 5 metric tons in 2000 to 9 metric tons in 2017, representing a significant improvement in the material standard of living. Most of the increase is attributed to a rise in the use of non-metallic minerals, pointing to growth in the areas of infrastructure and construction.

Goal 13 – Climate action

As of 9 April 2018, 175 Parties had ratified the Paris Agreement and 168 Parties (167 countries plus the European Commission) had communicated their first nationally determined contributions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat.

Goal 14 – Life below water

As of January 2018, 16 per cent (or over 22 million square kilometres) of marine waters under national jurisdiction—that is, 0 to 200 nautical miles from shore—were covered by protected areas. This is more than double the 2010 coverage level.

Goal 15 – Life on land
Illicit poaching and trafficking of wildlife continues to thwart conservation efforts, with nearly 7,000 species of animals and plants reported in illegal trade involving 120 countries. Of the 8,300 animal breeds known, 8 per cent are extinct and 22 per cent are at risk of extinction.
Goal 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Corruption, bribery, theft and tax evasion cost some US $1.26 trillion for developing countries per year; this amount of money could be used to lift those who are living on less than $1.25 a day above $1.25 for at least six years
Goal 17 – Partnership for the Goals
Official development assistance stood at $135.2 billion in 2014, the highest level ever recorded 79 per cent of imports from developing countries enter developed countries duty-free

Other sources:

About the Sustainable Development Goals

What are Sustainable Development Goals?

Question: Examine the strengths and weaknesses of the SDGs as an approach to bridging the development gap.



2. Human Developments Index (HDI)

The HDI was developed in 1990 by the United Nations to measure the levels of development. It is a composite measure of development, i.e it takes into consideration 3 key variables in determining the level of human development:

  • The health dimension is assessed by life expectancy at birth,
  • the education dimension is measured by the mean of years of schooling for adults aged 25 years and more and expected years of schooling for children of school entering age.
  • The standard of living dimension is measured by gross national income per capita.

Source: Chartsbin

HDI is measured on a scale of 0 to 1. Countries with the highest HDI are in Western Europe (e.g Norway’s is 0.949). North America, Australia (0.939). The lowest is in Central Africa. HDI is a composite measure, meaning more than one variable is taken into account.

Advantages of HDI

  • Because it is a composite measure, it gives a fair idea of a country’s level of development.
  • It can be compared with other indicators for comparison with the level of development of other countries.
  • The HDI can also be used to question national policy choices, by asking how two countries with the same level of GNI per capita can end up with different human development outcomes. These contrasts can stimulate debate about government policy priorities.

Disadvantages of HDI

  • It is difficult to calculate/measure the variables accurately since data collection is expensive and time-consuming.
  • Most countries use different currencies, hence calculating the GNI could pose problems because of the differences in the exchange rate.
  • All countries have a formal and an informal economy and in some countries, the informal economy is not captured in the economic records of the government. ie. in calculating the GDP. As a result, obtaining accurate data from some developing countries can be difficult.
  • Some goods and services are unpaid for. ie. volunteering in a charity shop, donating to charity or even parenting are most often left out in the calculation of the GNI
  • It does not take into account regional variations in development

3. Gender-Related Development Index

This measures achievements in the same dimensions as the HDI, however, it measures the disparities between men and women. It considers three dimensions: long and healthy life, knowledge, and a decent standard of living.

a) Gender Inequality Index (GII)

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), GII measures gender inequalities in three aspects of human development:

  •  reproductive health, measured by maternal mortality ratio and adolescent birth rates;
  • empowerment, measured by the proportion of parliamentary seats occupied by females and the proportion of adult females and males aged 25 years and older with at least some secondary education; and
  • economic status expressed as labour market participation and measured by the labour force participation rate of female and male populations aged 15 years and older.

Ranks: Top three countries: Norway (0.048), Switzerland (0.39), Australia (0.109




  • GII helps to expose the differences in the distribution of achievements between women and men.
  • It measures the human development costs of gender inequality. Thus, the higher the GII value the greater the disparities between females and males and the greater the loss to human development.


  • Data collection can be quite tricky in a country with a large informal sector which is dominated by uneducated women
  • In societies with the low status of women, it can be difficult for women to participate in some sectors of the economy such as politics and technical disciplines. Consequently, the data obtained might not give a true reflection of the level of gender equality in a country
  • There are controversies regarding the GII as a measure of development. Some have argued that since the data obtained could be affected by a country’s biases towards women, the measure lacks credibility when used in making international comparisons.

b) Gender Empowerment Measure. This reveals whether women can take an active part in economic or political life. It shows the level of inequality in opportunities for men and women in selected areas, by considering factors such as participation and gender (in)equality in decision-making (economic and political). This is achieved by considering the number of female parliamentarians, the number of female workers etc. Norway has the highest GEM at 0.837 (on a scale of 0 to 1). The lowest is Yemen.


  • It gives an indication of the level of involvement of women in decision making
  • It will indicate the level of education in a country, if women are educated, that is when they will be able to take part in decision-making.
  • It gives an indication of the level of child education; the extent to which their children are educated


  • it is a single measure of development other indicators are important such as environmental sustainability.

Empowering Women and indigenous or minority groups

As noted above, one of the common weaknesses of the development indices is that regional or local disparities are often not revealed. In the same way, the development indices may not always reveal the extent of discrimination that exist in a society on the basis of gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, minority groups or indigenous people. This section tries to examine the extent to which some of these marginalized groups have been empowered through various programs.

Detailed illustrative examples of affirmative action to close the development gap

  1. Empowering women farmers in Rwanda to grow better crops, better food and incomes
  2. Empowering women farmers of Rwanda through mobile technology
  3. Connections to the digital economy: Personal stories of individuals empowered by MasterCard sub-Saharan initiatives in Africa.

Indigenous or minority groups

Indigenous people

REUTERS/Siegfried Modola – Andean man and a woman depicting Inca’s legendary characters

According to Cultural Survival, an organization that fights for the rights of indigenous communities worldwide, there are approximately 370 million indigenous peoples belonging to 5,000 different groups across 90 countries. The World Bank estimates that they make up about 5% of the world’s total population and 15% of the extremely poor.

Indigenous peoples usually have a distinct culture and help to preserve the natural environment in which they live and may serve as a repository of rich cultural history. However, in recent years their livelihood and existence have been threatened by governments and other institutions who try to usurp their lands in order to tap the rich natural resources. This leads to the destruction of their habitat and livelihoods as well as the natural vegetation.

Over the past few years, Indigenous Peoples’ rights have been increasingly recognized through the adoption of international instruments such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007.

Examples of indigenous people include the Aborigines of Australia and the Xinghu in the Amazonian forest in Brazil.

Case study: Cambodian indigenous minorities fight the tide of development

Social entrepreneurship approaches to human development

Social entrepreneurship is a new and creative approach to human development that combines business techniques and principles to develop and fund projects that solve social, economic, environmental or cultural problems. To achieve the Sustainable Dev’t Goals, there is a need to implement resilient strategies that can stand the test of time. This calls for the need to adopt a wide range of development strategies to meet these goals.

Examples of social entrepreneurship approaches to human development include microfinance organizations, fair trade initiatives and corporate social responsibility.

1. Microfinance organizations

Microfinance is the provision of financial services to small businesses and poor entrepreneurs who often have limited or no access to formal banking, such as loans, savings, insurance, funds transfer, payment services etc. This is different from microcredit, which is the provision of small loans to low-income entrepreneurs who need funds to expand their businesses. Examples of microfinance organizations include credit unions, commercial banks, NGOs (Non-governmental Organizations), cooperatives, and sectors of government banks.

Microfinance is important because it provides funds for small-scale farmers or entrepreneurs. Most small-scale entrepreneurs are often not formally registered with the government, thus, making it extremely difficult for them to have access to formal financial services.

The best-known microfinance which started in a developing country with great success is the famous Grameen Bank, in Bangladesh. It was started by Mohammad Yunus, who proposed that most small businesses and poor entrepreneurs in Bangladesh are mostly women. He, therefore, developed a microfinance concept that focused on granting women access to microcredit, arguing that women tend to be more reliable in loan repayments and more likely to accept lower-risk loans, with a greater probability to succeed than men when given loans to invest in their business. This led to the development of microfinance as an alternative strategy for human development.

Benefits of microfinance:

1. microfinance can lead to economic growth. This is because as poor entrepreneurs have access to financial services they are able to grow their businesses and contribute positively to the growth of the GDP of the country.

2. Microfinance that is targeted at the poor and vulnerable and socially excluded, such as women and minority groups, contributes indirectly to improving their status in society. This empowers them financially, thus giving them the opportunity to make better life-changing choices.

3. Microfinance organizations can sometimes encourage their members to save.  This helps the poor to manage their finances sustainably by encouraging them to invest in productive ventures as a way to secure microcredit.

4. Microfinance also ensures agricultural sustainability and helps in conserving natural resources for future generations. Loans have been used to secure farm equipment in order to increase agricultural productivity and employment in low-income economies.

Weaknesses of Microfinance

1. It has been argued that microfinance organizations charge exorbitant interests on loans that make the poor perpetually indebted to the institution.

2. Sometimes, loans are used by the borrowers to meet social needs such as funerals, and marriage rites, hence making the payment of the loans a challenge in the long-run

3. In India, some borrowers have committed suicide due to their inability to repay the loans taken from microfinance institutions. This leaves their family indebted and unable to repay the loan

4. When women are targeted, the loans given to them are sometimes misappropriated by their husbands, thus defeating the whole purpose of granting the funds to women.

2. Alternative trading networks such as “Fairtrade”


Fairtrade is trade that attempts to be socially, economically and environmentally responsible. ie. they adopt policies that meet the livelihood of the people, respect/preserve their local culture and protect/use environmental resources wisely. Fairtrade cabins take responsibility for the wider impact of their business and aims at sustainable development for disadvantaged/excluded producers. It provides improved working conditions, employs sustainable methods of production and is characterized by the absence of any “middlemen”.

Fairtrade may take various forms:

  • It helps farmers obtain fairer prices for their produce.
  • It helps farmers with the needed technology to increase food production like tractors and combined harvesters.
  • It provides guaranteed markets for the products
  • More income returns to farmers and stays within the country (with an economic multiplier effect);
  • Greater possibility of farmers growing food crops, rather than industrial crops

Examples of fair trade companies include Blue Skies in Ghana, which exports pineapples and also produces pineapple juice for export and the local market.

Case studies of Fair Trade:

1. Standard of living: income and food security, reduced risk and vulnerability

2. Decent Work

3. Environmental protection and climate change

For more information, visit the Fair Trade website

3. TNC corporate social responsibility frameworks and global agreements

Corporate Social Responsibility is a management concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns into their business operations and interactions with their stakeholders.

Key CSR issues include environmental management, eco-efficiency, responsible sourcing, stakeholder engagement, labour standards and working conditions, employee and community relations, social equity, gender balance, human rights, good governance, and anti-corruption measures (UNIDO).

Corporate social responsibility

Case Study of Coca-Cola’s Corporate Social Responsibility in LICs

Coca gives Back, and helps the world live positively

While a growing number of businesses are embracing sustainability as a way to mitigate some of the negative impacts that might result from their global operations, a handful is raising the bar, using their considerable resources to improve conditions for those they do business with around the world.

livw positive

As part of a worldwide commitment to give back to the communities in which it operates, Coca-Cola in 2009 launched its Live Positively campaign — a set of initiatives that aim to create positive change in the world through sustainability. Projects within the campaign tackle everything from climate protection and balanced living to education and community. One area of focus — empowering women in developing nations through job and business training — falls under the 5 by 20 initiative, a goal of empowering 5 million women entrepreneurs across the company’s global value chain by the year 2020. Beginning in Brazil, India, South Africa and the Philippines, and expanding to China, Mexico, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Haiti and Egypt, Coke plans to reach women worldwide in the coming years. 

In Brazil, the initiative took the form of the Coletivo (Portuguese for “collective”) program, which offers two-month courses in business and retail training to young adults, entrepreneurs and artisans, and has grown from five to 136 programs across Brazil. The program features several focus areas, including:

  • Coletivo 1st Job, which trains young adults ages 15-25 in job skills and retail business basics. To date, 66% of the over 25,000 graduates have been women, and 30% have gotten jobs through participating retail customers.
  • Coletivo Residential Entrepreneurship provides female entrepreneurs with business skills to enable them to start small shops in their homes.
  • Coletivo Recycling supports recycling cooperatives by investing in materials, infrastructure and specific skills which allow cooperatives to increase efficiency and sustainability.
  • Hundreds of local artisans throughout Brazil — 97% of whom are women — turn recycled Coca-Cola packages into art, jewellery, handbags and other sellable items.
  • Coletivo Arts provides business and design training to enable these artisans to earn greater and more stable incomes from their businesses.

The ongoing success of the Coletivo program is an inspiring example of the type of impacts companies can make in the communities in which they operate. On November 27, we’ll hear from Claudia Lorenzo — Director of Special Projects for Coca-Cola Brazil — how the company has created shared benefits that extend throughout its value chain, in a breakout session on day one of the SB London Conference.

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You can make your own notes on Apple’s Corporate Social Responsibility from the 2018 Sustainability Report


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