The contribution of the private sector to road safety

Dan Chen, president at 3M Road Safety Division was hosted by IRF on 13th July for one of the IRF Executives Talks. These are a series of 30-minute talks launched by the IRF to get insights from CEOs and high-level executives of the world’s most innovative and influential companies and organisations from industry. The conversation had a strong focus on the private sector and its contribution to road safety and overall to the SDGs
October 25, 2021
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The Stockholm Ministerial Declaration, the latest UN road safety resolution, the current draft of the Decade of Action Plan, they all make reference to the important contribution that the private sector can make to road safety. But how best can that contribution be highlighted?

Chen highlighted three factors where the private sector can really make a difference: the change in behaviour and raising codes of practice; value-based investing; and developing business models around safety. “The first thing is that the private sector is good at is changing behaviour and raising codes of practice. The private sector can play a role in making road safety a priority. For example, if we uniformly implemented safety criteria in our procurement, our own fleets, our freight and supplier base, it could have a significant impact. Secondly, the private sector plays a role in establishing values-based investing that is looking at the economic, environmental and societal impact of companies. If we look at environmental sustainability, it is amazing to watch the transformation with shareholders about wanting to invest in environmentally sustainable companies. Chen asks what would happen if investing in societal good,inequality, road safety and public health would reach that same stature? There are some lessons to be learned.”

Chen stressed that “the private sector can play a catalysing role in developing business models and an ecosystem that revolve around safety."

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“It starts with inventing products and solutions that improve road safety and creating markets for those products and solutions. But that is not enough, we need to create a safety ecosystem with regulators, government agencies, banks, and technology providers to that ecosystem. With the right business model, then it becomes self-sustaining.”

Chen pointed out that in a certain way, we are seeing sustainability, at least in the sense of environmental sustainability, running ahead of where we are in road safety. Green bonds are an example, where it was just an idea a few years ago and is now a $650 billion market. “Safety plays a role in sustainability as well, linked to transportation equity.  I am glad to see that part of the agenda for the UN Global Sustainable Transport Conference to be hosted in October."

The discussion continued on the subject of partnerships and their role on the making of markets that create safety value: “Markets are driven by value creation, and the role of the multiplicity of players will be important.”

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