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Briefing Notes (series)

Matching businesses, public support and sustainability ambitions

Briefing Note 90

May 2016

Große-Puppendahl, S., Byiers, B., Bilal, S. 2016. Matching businesses, public support and sustainability ambitions. (Briefing Note 90). Maastricht: ECDPM.

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In a context where sustainability goals become overarching principles, what then distinguishes public support instruments to business that are more development-oriented from those that are more commercially-oriented, along economic diplomacy objectives?

To shed light on this process, ECDPM mapped instruments focused on engaging the private sector for development, and those supporting own businesses with commercial objectives in order to better understand their challenges, opportunities and synergies. We also examined EU matchmaking instruments with development cooperation and commercial interests.

This synthesis note summarises some of the key findings of our analysis so far, and presents implications and an outlook on what that means for public support instruments to better engage businesses for inclusive and sustainable development. It provides policy recommendations along the dimensions of institutions, instruments and criteria.


Key messages


  • Public instruments to support the private sector, for both development and commercial interests, have similar objectives and take similar forms. They, therefore, offer
    potential synergies to achieve more sustainable development outcomes, while sharing risks, costs and resources.
  • ECDPM research points to a lack of consistent sustainability and development criteria for businesses to access public support instruments. While this is important for
    development cooperation, commitments to both the 2030 Agenda and policy coherence for sustainable development also raise their importance for commercial instruments.
  • As development and commercial objectives are increasingly sought through private sector engagement at EU and national levels, there is a need for a more integrated approach to tackle global challenges: one that explicitly recognises the similarities between commercial and development instruments and draws lessons from both.
  • Systematically applied, sustainability criteria could increase the effectiveness and impact of all public support instruments to businesses and help ensure that firms actively contribute to development outcomes, beyond ‘doing no harm’.

Read Briefing Note 90


Download (PDF, 413KB)


Photo: Business development industry – tanks. Credits: Thinkstock.


In addition to structural support by ECDPM’s institutional partners Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland, this publication also benefits from funding from the Department for International Development (DFID), United Kingdom.

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