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Private Business in: Problem or Solution?

Involvement of private businesses to the process of solving and dealing with environmental issues is becoming new trend in the international arena. As a result of industrialization, and globalization of economy the number of private businesses regulating different aspects of economy grows rapidly. Undeniably this growth rate led to construct private regimes that will facilitate commercial transactions and interests between owners and business entities around the world. (Levy and Newell, 2005) Levy and Newell identify private regimes in their book: “Private regimes are international institutional mechanisms, aimed at bringing order to an area of business activity, in which state authority is either not present at all or not the prominent form of political authority.” From this statement we can conclude that private sector is changing the process of responding to environmental threats by creating revolutionized new system. They are there to say that ‘we also care environment as much as you, come and work with us’. Public-private partnerships came out in many countries. As well as UN highlights the fundamental role of PPPs and private businesses alone in achieving sustainable development goals. (UN news, 2015)

We observe PPPs in many areas including environmental problems. International Organizations like World Bank and UN subunits strongly suggest private business cooperation to state governments while launching new environmental or development program in regions. It’s unavoidable that there are failure stories too. However, some doesn’t believe that private sector can really put aside its profit maximization goals and go to field in order to be solution to certain problems. In Hilyards words it is “putting the foxes in charge of chickens”. (Levy and Newell, 2005) For my point of view, finding out what role private sector has is very blurry. Thus, is this a solution to the problem or is it a problem itself?

Experiences with private sector involvement can be different, success and failure stories, but which one exceeds which? I think, from this percentage, we can identify its future role in SDG achievements. UNDP uses the privatization in fighting with poverty problems and eradicating poverty level in developing countries. (UN, 2015) However, MDG’s zero-poverty level goal didn’t achieve 100%. Private sector was there but it left too many people behind that development projects. (Yamada, 2015) Oxfam’s Poverty Footprint tool was a partnership program with three private companies, Coca-Cola, Unilever and IPL. The purpose of creating this tool was to create a people-centered tool that private businesses should consider in their actions and operation. However, when it comes to action I doubt that, any private company can left its profit maximization goal behind and go to help people. Tobacco is quite well example of this experience. Companies like BAT and Philip Morris show up in some events and development projects as a company that really cares about the environment and people. They purposely choose these events when they can work with state organization so to get attention of government, such as funding in education, poverty programs, green environment projects, etc. Coca-Cola joint program with ADA University in 2015 to plant trees was an example of that. But, if we go into deep of environmental damages that Coca-Cola or BAT, they cannot compensate it with planting even hundreds of trees.

I think that, involvement of private sector in is neither a problem nor a pure solution to the problems. It has certain advantages of course that they are there. However, this sector is the one who “drinks a water in a glass till the last drop”. They can show up that they also care about the environment and other development issues, but their goal from the existence of humanity on the Earth has never changed and won’t change from now on. They always will seek maximization of revenues at any time and any condition. They are the ones who use every single, tiny opportunity they have. Definitely they have power and state can use this power not against but in favor of itself. How and with what ways? This is very uncertain question to answer. PPPs helps in certain stages and to certain amount but privatization of all goods and involvement of private sector alone is not solution to problem.


By: Zeynab Abdullayeva



  1. Levy, D., and Newell, P. (2005). Eds. The Business of Global Environmental Governance. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA
  2. UN News, (2015). UN Forum highlights the ‘fundamental’ role of private sector in advancing new global goals. UN News Centre. http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2015/09/un-forum-highlights-fundamental-role-of-private-sector-in-advancing-new-global-goals/
  3. Yamada, T. (2015). Making business part of the solution: How can private sector partnership support sustainable development? EIGC International Growth Center Blog.


About Zeyneb Abdullayeva