Headshot of BCG expert David Young

Tackling Sustainable Development Goals Through Cross-Sector, Public-Private Partnerships

Alumnus Dave Young’s Return to BCG Is the “Natural and Logical Step” in Creating Societal Impact and Effecting Social Change

After starting with BCG Chicago in 1988, being elected senior partner, serving as office administrator in Seoul and Boston, as well as practice area leader for Industrial Goods, and serving on the executive committee, Dave Young decided it was time for a new challenge. Leaving BCG in 2006 to serve first as head of strategy and then as global COO at WorldVision, a 46,000-person global relief, development, microfinance, and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families, and communities to overcome poverty and injustice, Dave knew he was in for a very different experience. Eleven years later, Dave is back at BCG with a unique perspective and a resolute call for cross-sector partnerships and capacity-sharing between the public, private, and social sectors to effect social change.

In his role with the Social Impact practice, Dave leads the development of BCG's offerings in total societal impact (TSI) and sustainability. Dave says that "TSI is a way for business leaders to identify new opportunities by leveraging their existing operations and forming social partnerships to make a positive, lasting change for the world, while achieving business objectives. TSI, more than traditional corporate social responsibility, focuses on using a company's business model to create positive social impact, providing uplift for shareholders and stakeholders alike."

Leveraging their capacity and capital, corporations and institutional investors can play a transformative role in partnering with governments, multilateral institutions, and social-sector organizations to achieve important public good. Governments now recognize that the private sector has a critical role to play in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), whose aim is to end poverty and inequality, as well as address climate change. In fact, SDG 17 calls for partnering across sectors to achieve the SDGs. Sustainable business is necessary for sustainable economic development, and sustainable economic development is essential to enabling more opportunities for individuals to break from the cycle of poverty. Corporations can now better tune their emerging-markets strategies and operating models to a country's national development priorities, expanding beyond the "right to operate" to capture new opportunities for growth and potentially drawing on nontraditional development financing and risk vehicles.

Whether growing inclusive value chains to benefit smallholder farmers, leveraging distribution systems to expand access to pharmaceuticals, or offering digital solutions for governments to economically reach the bottom of their economies, today's corporations can find new business in the SDGs. "Given BCG's work in the public and social sectors and extensive corporate client base," Dave says, "the firm is well positioned to help each sector look beyond its boundaries toward new opportunities and growth." BCG's offerings in total societal impact and sustainability are about helping clients create sustainable businesses while doing good.

Through Dave's experience in the private and social sectors, he has witnessed approaches intended to implement large-scale, meaningful change in various contexts, solidifying his belief that cross-sector partnerships can create benefits to society that individual efforts cannot accomplish alone. As Dave has reflected in publications with Panorama and Perspectives before, many skills and approaches are quite transferable:

When asked why he returned to BCG, Dave answered without hesitation: "When you look for a platform upon which you can work and that you can leverage for social impact, no one has quite the combination of resources that BCG does in the public, private, and social sectors. If one believes that the private sector is critical to SDG achievement, which I do, then what better approach than to be involved in an organization whose principal reputation revolves around its leading-edge thinking, its role in the world, how it competes, and how it adds value?"

Dave says a return to BCG was the "natural and logical step," noting BCG's unique ability to look across industries and sectors to identify best practices that can innovatively create new value and have lasting impact. When Dave thinks about creating social value, he thinks BCG—and he's working to ensure others think the same.

Tackling Sustainable Development Goals Through Cross-Sector, Public-Private Partnerships