By Roman Alexander Balin
On March 27 2019, IFC’s Young Professional Network and the World Bank Analyst Program hosted Gilbert Ghostine, CEO of Firmenich, the world’s largest privately-owned fragrance & flavor company, at World Bank headquarters in Washington, DC.
The informal roundtable discussion focused on how inclusive business models and cultures of innovation within corporate contexts can lead to pioneering partnerships that tackle the world’s most pressing development challenges. The discussion took place in collaboration with the Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at the Wharton School and was guided by a recently published case study: “How innovation and partnerships can save lives,” which was circulated among IFC’s Young Professional Network prior to the meeting.
The discussion touched on how striving to create value for all of its stakeholders, from clients to those employed in its supply chain operations across the globe, anchors Fimenich’s commitment to an inclusive operating model. Participants were keen to learn how businesses operating in niche industries, such as Firmenich within the fragrance industry, can leverage their unique comparative advantages to move the needle on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The session concluded with participants discussing ways in which the international community could further leverage the private sector in achieving the SDGs. During the conversation, Mr. Ghostine highlighted how consumer preferences are shifting and will increasingly gravitate toward products and companies that value sustainability and inclusive business practices. This shift presents a unique opportunity for the international development community to further mobilize private industry toward achieving the SDGs by forming coalitions of likeminded multi-national companies, start-ups, and technology firms and clustering them into groups targeting each of the 17 global goals.
Following the event, Leonard Wolloh, a young World Bank staffer, shared his impression of IFC’s first Learning Series: “The session enabled me to learn how instrumental the private sector can be in supporting developmental projects that enhance the social welfare of local communities. The international development community should leverage the private sector for better synergy and lasting impact.”