In a 2015 PLOS One paper, the concept of ‘keystone actors’ was introduced within the seafood industry. Inspired by the ‘keystone species’ term in ecology, Österblom et al. use the concept to illustrate that the largest companies in a given industry can operate similarly to keystone species in ecological communities. This means that they can have a disproportionate effect on the structure and function of the system in which they operate. The researchers ascribed the following characteristics to those keystone actors:
They dominate global production revenues and volumes within a particular sector;
They control globally relevant segments of production;
They connect ecosystems globally through subsidiaries;
They influence global governance processes and institutions.
Building on the supposition that through engagement with keystone actors it is simultaneously possible to raise the bar for global companies that have significant influence within their industries, as well as provide incentives for smaller companies to catch up with their peers, the Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS) initiative was founded. This initiative is an ambitious effort that aims to contribute to SDG 14 (conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources) and provides a platform for some of the world’s largest seafood businesses to come together to chart a new course for their sector.
There is a strong case for focusing on these keystone actors within specific industries for the corporate SDG benchmarks that the WBA intends to develop. These companies are often at the forefront of developments and investments within their sector and set a model for other firms to follow. Most of these large companies work with thousands of business partners throughout their value chains. By setting sustainability standards, creating incentives, and providing support, these keystone actors have substantial leveraged impact in driving the transition towards more sustainable, responsible and inclusive value chains. The important role of these keystone actors in shaping industries and value chains means they can make significant, actionable and unique contributions to achieving particular SDGs and corresponding targets.
Aviva is one of the world’s largest insurance and asset management companies, its history tracing back more than 300 years. It has operations in 16 markets around the world, but through its investment portfolio, Aviva’s reach extends to a broader and larger group of consumers. The company is a LEAD member of the Global Compact; a founding member of both the UN Principles of Responsible Investment and the UN Sustainable Stock Exchange Initiative. It is also a frontrunner in responsible investments, using its influence to support more sustainable business and ultimately a more sustainable economy and society. Aviva is an active contributor and user of different corporate sustainability benchmarks, including a founding member of the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark. Aviva’s CEO Mark Wilson is a member of the Business and Sustainable Development Commission (BSDC) and is personally committed to driving forward the sustainable development agenda and the creation of the WBA.
The Business & Sustainable Development Commission (BSDC) aims to make a powerful business case for achieving a sustainable, inclusive economy. Its flagship report Better Business, Better World, launched in January 2017, maps the economic prize for companies that align with the SDGs, and shows how to achieve them. The report includes the creation of SDGs benchmarks as one of the key recommendations. The Business Commission aims to make a powerful business case for achieving a sustainable and inclusive economy, if the UN Sustainable Development Goals are achieved. In its flagship report, Better Business, Better World, the Commission describes how business can contribute to delivering these goals. Chaired by Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, the Commission include 37 leaders from business, finance, civil society, labour, and international organisations from around the world.p>
Index Initiative is a centre of expertise in benchmarking corporate performance against stakeholder expectations. It seeks to propel the use of benchmarks to engage and bring purpose and clarity on the role of companies in contributing to the SDGs closest to their core business. A non-profit based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Index Initiative’s research and benchmarks are free and accessible to all. Index Initiative will conduct the global consultation on the World Benchmarking Alliance.
The United Nations Foundation builds public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and broadens support for the United Nations through advocacy and public outreach. Through innovative campaigns and initiatives, the Foundation connects people, ideas, and resources to help the UN solve global problems. The Foundation was created in 1998 as a U.S. public charity by entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner and now is supported by philanthropic, corporate, government, and individual donors.