Alexander De Croo and Paul Polman plead for the role of the private sector in sustainable international development

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo, together with Unilever CEO Paul Polman, today brought together a group of Belgian top CEOs to exchange views and discuss the importance of sustainable international development. He did so at the start of the European Development Days, the most important European forum for international development that takes place today and tomorrow in Brussels. Alexander De Croo is the initiator of the Belgian SDG Charter that acts as a bridge between international development and the business community. Paul Polman is an advocate internationally to closely involve the private sector in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
During a breakfast meeting, with among others the CEOs of Brussels Airlines, Delhaize and the Port of Antwerp, the minister and the CEOs discussed how companies could support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were approved by the United Nations to ban extreme poverty by 2030, protect our planet and stimulate human development. The SDGs for the first time explicitly recognize the important role of the private sector in the field of international development.
Alexander De Croo: "If we want to eradicate extreme poverty and better protect our planet by 2030, we need the private sector. Donor countries like Belgium cannot do that job on their own. Companies are ready to support the Sustainable Development Goals. Companies that embrace sustainable development are better companies. And an international development policy without cooperation with the private sector can never be sustainable. That's what I'm convinced of today."


Minister De Croo was particularly pleased with Paul Polman's presence in the discussions with the Belgian CEOs. The CEO of Unilever is internationally one of the advocates in engaging the private sector in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. He is also president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum and member of the Board of the UN Global Compact.
Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever: "The Sustainable Development Goals offer major economic opportunities, but only if companies and governments work together. By 2030, the value of the SDGs is estimated at 12 billion dollar annually, with the potential to create 380 million new jobs. There is simply no business case for poverty and there has never been a better time than now to create a better future for all of us."

Today and tomorrow

Today and tomorrow, the European Development Days are taking place in Brussels. A closer collaboration with the private sector and the importance of investments for international development have a central role in this edition. Also the Belgian international development policy focusses more and more on the importance of sustainable and inclusive economic growth to reach sustainable development in partner countries.

Belgian SDG Charter

At the end of last year, Alexander De Croo launched the Belgian SDG Charter, with the aim to increase awareness on the ambitious development agenda in the Belgian private sector. It has already been signed by more than 100 companies and organizations. The Belgian SDG Charter for International Development outlines the commitment of the Belgian private sector, civil society and the public sector based on the 5 P's of the Sustainable Development Goals: People, Planet, Profit, Peace and Partnerships.
The Charter is currently focusing on three concrete themes: (1) health, (2) renewable energy, (3) agriculture and nutrition and provides space for the development of new themes by the group of signatories. The Belgian sustainability network “The Shift” guides the whole process.


  • Alexander De Croo, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation
  • Paul Polman, CEO Unilever
  • Michel Croisé, CEO of Sodexo
  • Nicolas de Borman, CEO Bluesquare
  • Bernard Gilliot, Chairman of the VBO
  • Bernard Gustin, CEO of Brussels Airlines
  • Mario Huyghe, CEO Belgium / Luxembourg Philips
  • Denis Knoops CEO Delhaize
  • Thomas Leysen Chairman Umicore and Chairman of The Shift
  • Wim Parys, Vice President J & J
  • Chris Prengel's CEO Tiger Power
  • Vimal Shah, CEO or BIDCO Africa Group
  • Sophie Souied CEO Unilever Belgium
  • Thomas Van Craen CEO, Triodos
  • Bogdan Vanden Berghe, CEO 11.11.11
  • Jacques Vandermeiren CEO Port of Antwerp
  • Bruno Van der Pluijm, CEO Directorate General Development Cooperation of the FPS Foreign Affairs, Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade
  • Saskia Van Uffelen, CEO Ericsson
  • An Vermeersch, Vice President GSK