The FINANCIAL — UNITED NATIONS, New York, 17 July 2018 — Enthusiasm, renewed energy and a positive approach was top of mind as leaders from business, Governments, civil society and the United Nations met at the third annual SDG Business Forum to set a new direction to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
The event was held as part of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) at the United Nations in New York — the annual platform for reviewing progress and guiding global efforts for the 2030 Agenda. Co-hosted by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) and the UN Global Compact, the 2018 SDG Business Forum convened a diverse and multi-stakeholder group reaching nearly 600 participants.
In her keynote address, H.E Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, encouraged businesses everywhere to commit. “As a fundamental first step on their sustainability journeys, we need companies to ensure they are doing business responsibly, in alignment with UN values and the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact. An overall commitment to doing business responsibly is one of the most powerful contributions companies can make to the 2030 Agenda,” she said, adding that young business leaders must continue to be disruptive.
“I see encouraging progress, where Member States are showing strong ownership for securing an inclusive globalization,” she added.
Lise Kingo, CEO & Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact sent a strong message to business leaders to measure their progress. “We are 1,000 days in on the route to 2030. We have come to a moment where we need to manage and set direction. The time is now to get serious and begin to measure the improvements,” she said in her opening statement.
Kingo’s remarks come as many partners in both the private and public sectors, as well as civil society, expressed concern about the fast-approaching 2030 deadline. While many of the world’s biggest companies are increasingly engaged with the 2030 Agenda, with only 12 years left to reach the Global Goals, the potential benefit of a critical mass of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) taking up the charge to make the Global Goals local business has never been more obvious, according to UNglobalcompact.
This message was underscored by John W.H. Denton, Secretary General of the ICC. “Three years into this journey, we need a reality check. If we continue on the current path, we will not reach the target. More of the same will not get us there. We have to find a way to scale up the corporate engagement in a situation where 60 per cent of businesses worldwide are not engaged,” Denton told a packed ECOSOC chamber, which included approximately 170 executives from companies across the world.
Under-Secretary-General of UN DESA Liu Zhenmin remarked, “So many CEOs are joining us today. It’s time to discuss how to speed up and how to promote solutions. You are on the frontline, and sustainable solutions are critical to survive on a longer term. You are critical for change and to create a multi-stakeholder platform on a national level.”
The action-orientated discussion at the SDG Business Forum was centred around how to communicate and engage SMEs and the value of creating partnerships on the local level to speed up progress towards the 2030 Agenda.
During the Forum, participants discussed a wide variety of new tools to guide the global business community along best practices, no matter their size, sector or region.
Amy Jadesimi, Chief Executive Officer of Ladol in Laos, stated that sustainable companies will outperform non-sustainable companies over time, especially if investments are being made in local companies in for instance in Africa. “These markets are driven by incentives,” said Jadesimi. “It’s a pure business case and it has been made. It’s just a question about who the first movers are and how long it takes for rest of the market to catch up.”
Welcoming the high-level participants to a working lunch, President of the UN General Assembly, H.E. Miroslav Lajčák, underscored how businesses are crucial to realizing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. “The SDGs need business, but business also needs the SDGs. The 2030 Agenda is a treasure chest of opportunities for business. Consumers are also paying attention. So, there can be no business without sustainability. If we keep going the way we are, we will see drastic change — and not for the better. It will affect people and planet, and businesses will need that to thrive,” said Lajčák.
The 2018 SDG Business Forum had a record number of participants, which has grown significantly since its launch in 2015. The increased interest in the role of the private sector is a reflection of the urgency of the 2030 Agenda, and a strong call-to-action for companies of all sizes to get involved.