GRI is Advancing the SDG Agenda 2030 in South Asia

May 17, 2017 12:15 PM ET
GRI’s Regional Hub South Asia and the CII ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development have launched a local initiative to understand SDGs in business context in the South Asian region trough a peer-learning platform. 
“We must measure what we treasure - the Sustainable Development Goals guide us about what we must treasure.” With these words, Dr. Aditi Haldar, Director of GRI South Asia, welcomed attendees on 27 April at the launch of the “SDG Agenda 2030 for South Asia”: a local initiative by GRI’s Regional Hub South Asia and the Confederation of Indian Industry ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development.
The two-year regional program targets business, civil society and academia and is structured around a series of eight dialogue forums where participants will gather together and deliberate on how to shape an innovative and sustainable business culture in the region. The participating companies will have the opportunity to present their own SDG action case stories to global audiences at UN forums. Next to this, they will benefit from access to emergent global trends in the field, and customized insights that they can incorporate into their decision-making and leadership practices.
Addressing SDGs in the South Asian business context
Home to 37% of the world’s poor, and almost half of the world’s malnourished children, South Asia is a vital region to be involved towards the achievement of the SDGs (UNESCAP report “Achieving SDGs in South Asia”, 2016). The region has witnessed dynamic economic growth over the last decades, but this has often been achieved through unsustainable practices and negative impacts. Citing the UNESCAP report, “the GDP growth rate in South Asia would be minimal, if at all positive, if it fully took into account the environmental degradation and the depletion of natural capital, such as land, water, biodiversity, natural resources and other ecosystem services, that is caused by unsustainable economic growth pathways.”
Driven vastly by industry and economic growth, it is crucial for South Asia to bring businesses on board the sustainable development agenda. Dr. Haldar laid out this clear call to action in the opening lines of her welcome address at the launch event: “Putting the Sustainable Development Goals, or Global Goals, at the heart of the world’s economic strategy could unleash a step-change in growth and productivity. However, this will not happen without radical change in the business and investment community. Real leadership is needed for the private sector to become a trusted partner in working with government and civil society to fix the economy.“
Speaking further in the inaugural session at the event, Seema Arora, Executive Director CII ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development, stated that, “Since the launch of SDGs in 2015, thinking and action by business has been limited.” She urged the business community to, “use the SDGs as reference points to fundamentally rethink businesses and participate in shaping the future.” The role and influence that business can have on impacting SDGs was further reinforced by Anirban Ghosh, Chief Sustainability Officer at Mahindra Group: “The impact of business on reducing poverty and hunger is multifaceted. Even businesses may not realize this. A broader perspective of the contribution of business can enable higher impact on SDGs and create a virtuous cycle.”
GRI’s initiative “SDG Agenda 2030 for South Asia” tackles this very objective by providing a program that will help companies understand the SDGs in their regional context, and help catalyze business leadership and action.
Transparency as a key step for sustainable supply chains
Speaking at the launch event Santanu Roy, Executive Director at Gas Authority India Limited, reminded the audience that meeting the SDGs in South Asia is an essential objective in order to be able to achieve the SDGs at the global level. Even though individual companies in the region are increasingly contributing to actions that promote the SDGs, it will not amount to much if industry leadership lacks transparency and is not held accountable to the steps undertaken.
His Excellency Mr. Janis Björn Kanavin, Special Envoy for Responsible Business in Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and co-Chair at the UN committee implementing the SDGs, further added that we must recognize the outcomes that businesses can benefit from by engaging in the SDGs. Most businesses want to do good in order to present a good image to their stakeholders. But savvy businesses realize that taking SDGs right down to their supply chains is a more effective and easier way to achieve innovation. Stronger commitment from businesses to disclose their impacts can ensure better alignment across the value chain.
Find out more about GRI’s global efforts in making the Global Goals a reality: Read our article about Reporting on the SDGs Action Platform or watch the video.