The Business 20: The Voice of G20 Industry

The Group of Twenty (G20), the alliance of 19 leading industrialized and emerging economies and the European Union, has become a central forum in global governance. In order to properly fulfill its mandate of promoting strong, balanced and sustainable growth, the G20 relies on the expertise of the business community, provided by the Business Twenty (B20).

Since 2010, the B20 has been the official dialogue process between the G20 and industry. The B20 seeks to represent the consolidated interests of the entire G20 business community with one voice. It is one of eight dialogue partners of the G20, holding company with Civil 20 (C20), Labour 20 (L20), Science 20 (S20), Think 20 (T20), Women 20 (W20), Youth 20 (Y20), and Urban 20 (U20). Within the B20, business representatives develop joint policy recommendations covering the full range of the G20 agenda.

B20 Process: Legitimacy and Efficacy

The B20 Presidency rotates annually, together with the G20 Presidency. During the German G20 Presidency (December 2016 – December 2017), the Federation of German Industries (BDI), the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA) and the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) were mandated to organize the B20. The B20 Chairman was Dr. Jürgen Heraeus.

At the start of every B20 cycle, the respective Chairman invites companies and business associations in the G20 countries to apply for membership in the B20. B20 Germany had more than 700 members – representatives of both companies and industry associations – from all G20 countries, organized into eight working groups. The German B20 Presidency heeded in the selection of members representativeness in terms of countries, regions, sectors, company sizes and types. International organizations such as the UNCTAD, OECD, WTO and the World Bank contribute with technical expertise to the position-building process.

The topics are largely determined through surveys among its members. Recommendations to the G20 are developed through monthly working meetings in the working groups and Task Forces, as well as regular written and in-person exchange. The B20 facilitates a lively exchange between representatives of industry associations and companies from all G20 countries. The process is consensus-based, which ensures that the positions developed in working groups are supported by all its members.

The B20 activities include:

  • Consolidation of the G20 Business Interests: in topic-specific working groups, industry representatives from the G20 countries work on central issues of the global economy and calibrate consensus-based joint positions. Just the fact that the B20 allows industry representatives from the entire G20 landscape to come together, regularly exchange, consolidate interests and jointly advocate for positions, is valuable in and of itself. The B20 thus contributes to rapprochement and interconnectedness within the G20 membership. Moreover, the B20 supports the G20 through expertise and practical experience. The B20 is able to provide the G20 with joint consolidated economic positions, rather than a bundle of different voices from individual countries.
  • Interest Representation: the B20 Chairman represents the business community through participation in meetings of the G20 working groups, exchanges with G20 ministers and Sherpas, and media activities. At the B20 Summit, the B20 recommendations are presented to the G20 Presidency. Many of the B20 recommendations are well-reflected in G20 decisions. For example, the B20 is the reason that the G20 is now addressing the issue of digital trade and e-commerce and that there are now numerous G20 initiatives for improved support of small- and medium-sized enterprises.
  • Dialogue between Politics and Civil Society: In addition to working meetings, numerous high level B20 events take place with participants from politics, business, and civil society. In this way, the B20 is able to make an important contribution to dialogue within the G20.

It goes without saying that – as in the G20 – there are sometimes difficult negotiations and also heated discussions. These are explicitly desired, as the B20 is intended to help identify convergences of interest on the one hand, but on the other, to arrive at creative solutions and compromises. The reconciliation of interests in the B20 helps to identify actions that can be supported by all G20 governments.

Looking Forward

Italy took over the B20 Presidency from Saudi Arabia in December 2020. As B20 Germany, BDI, DIHK and BDA continue to engage actively in the Italian B20 process. There are currently seven Task Forces on Trade and Investment, Energy and Resource Efficiency, Integrity and Compliance, Employment and Education, the Digital Transformation, Finance and Infrastructure, and Health and Life Sciences. Continuing the Saudi Arabian tradition, the Italian B20 will also host an Action Council; this time on Sustainability and Global Emergencies. German business plans to engage deeply in all seven B20 Task Forces as well as the Action Council.