From November 20-23, 2018, the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) convened a group of approximately 15 close partners (“Allies”) to engage in a deep-dive session on how to maximize the impact of the WBA’s efforts to create free, publicly available benchmarks ranking companies on their contributions to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Following a year-long consultation phase and the launch of the WBA in September 2018, the conference brought together Allies to begin forming the basis of a large-scale and inclusive global coalition reflecting the spirit of partnerships that lies at the heart of the SDG framework. The conference’s goals were to establish a deep connection between core Allies through a shared vision of what the WBA wants to achieve, a shared intent to build the Alliance together, and a shared learning journey that inspires other multi-stakeholder partnerships to maximize contributions to SDG implementation.

The conference agenda was organized broadly around three core areas: impact (or the theory of change), method (or the process of building the benchmarks), and form (or the model of engaging as an Alliance). Additionally, the agenda was designed with significant input from participants themselves via an appreciative inquiry in order to get a clear and thorough understanding of perceived relevance and value of the WBA, as well as desired outcomes for the Alliance moving forward.

Following three days of intensive reflection, analysis, and planning, the WBA emerged with a clear plan of action moving into 2019 that reflects broad consensus around shared goals, priorities, challenges, and opportunities. Key next steps include the following:

  1. Developing a clear and compelling theory of change, as well as an accompanying narrative around the need for a systems-transformation approach, that combines theoretical elements on the coercive and enabling levers for behavior change with the human processes that underpin these drivers of change;
  2. Convening leading benchmarks and indices to delve deeper into the technical components of benchmark methodology, specific considerations around company engagement, and ensuring that WBA benchmarks are additive, iterative, and complementary to existing efforts; and
  3. Building a strategic and tactical plan that offers clear terms of engagement with Allies, while allowing a certain level of flexibility and openness in process and structure.

In addition to the outcomes noted above, the conference provided an important opportunity for Allies to explore potential partnerships and areas of collaboration with each other. From specific collaborations around benchmark development and methodology, to broader opportunities around South-South engagement, to conversations around how to ensure local relevance of WBA activities for small and medium-sized enterprises, participants built on existing relationships and forged new connections to drive long-term, sustainable impact. Over the coming months, the WBA will work to provide a platform for shared learning, knowledge-exchange, and growth on these issues, as well as others relating more broadly to private sector engagement on the SDGs.

The WBA will also convene Allies once again in Mumbai in March to build on conversations in Bellagio and present the outcomes identified above. Following the Mumbai convening, the WBA hopes to return to Bellagio in late 2019 – following publication of methodologies and initial benchmarks – to advance actionable outcomes on corporate adoption, behavior change, and SDG impact.