Business Leaders Endorse Sustainable Development Goals as Framework for Shaping Corporate Strategies

Jun 23, 2016 6:35 PM ET
Press Release

NEW YORK, 23 June 2016 /3BL Media/ - Today at the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit 2016, more than 600 business leaders from 75 countries joined leaders from civil society, the UN and Government to advance private sector actions for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Opened yesterday at United Nations Headquarters by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the second day of the Summit focused on how companies can transform their business models to responsibly meet the needs of society, tap into new markets and achieve success.

“To meet the SDGs by 2030, the time to act is now. Many companies are already starting to look through the SDG lens – imagining how their operations, products and services can support the realities of our planet and better serve markets both today and in the future,” stated Lise Kingo, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact. “It is so encouraging that a growing number of CEOs already recognize that the SDGs offer a roadmap for business to rethink approaches to sustainable value creation – but the challenge now is scaling up this movement to include companies everywhere.”

To help participants see the potential of transforming risks into opportunities, the Summit featured Opportunity Sessions on key topics: changing lifestyles to promote sustainability, addressing climate change, building peace through responsible business, financing sustainable solutions and business models, ending poverty to create new markets, and translating global goals into local business action. In these interactive sessions business leaders advanced ideas on how to address global challenges, with UN, Government and civil society offering thought-provoking responses. 

“As we journey to 2030, the SDGs will take on even greater meaning as the vehicle to achieve the objectives of the UN Charter, our founding document,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson. “The SDGs create huge market opportunities everywhere and allow companies to do well by doing good. The optimism and entrepreneurship of the private sector must be a driving force.”

The two-day Summit, the first official business forum since the launch of the SDGs, is part of a UN Global Compact multi-year strategy – Making Global Goals Local Business – to drive business awareness and activity that supports the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. In total, more than 1,200 participants from business, finance, civil society, labour, academia, the UN and Government attended the Summit.

Throughout the day, a number of speakers from business shared stories of how their companies have made significant steps to advance sustainable development priorities, including on energy, climate, waste, water, healthcare and poverty, which can translate into increased actions in the SDG era. Additionally, poet Sarah Kay and author Simon Sinek inspired the audience to become agents of change and play their part to create the world we want.

Plenary speakers included: Bola Adesola, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria; Marie-Ange Debon, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Suez; Deb Frodl, Global Executive Director, ecomagination at GE; Chang-Gyu Hwang, Chief Executive Officer, KT Corporation; Peter Lacy, Global Managing Director for Sustainability Services, Accenture Strategy; and Jyrki Raina, General Secretary, IndustriALL Union.

During the Leaders Summit a number of announcements were made, including: 

  • 2016 CEO Study: The UN Global Compact and Accenture Strategy announced the results of the 2016 CEO Study, finding that 87% of CEOs in the UN Global Compact believe that the SDGs represent an essential opportunity to rethink approaches to sustainability, and nearly half say businesses will be the most important actor in their delivery. The CEO Study was conducted with more than 1,000 UN Global Compact participant CEOs in 108 countries across 26 industries. 
  • Local SDG Pioneers: To inspire business women and men around the world, yesterday the UN Global Compact announced ten Local SDG Pioneers. Selected from more than 600 nominees in 100 countries, the Pioneers programme shines a spotlight on entrepreneurs and changemakers who are demonstrating how business can unlock economic, social and environmental gains in their markets for the new SDG era. 
  • Local SDG Network Plans: As part of the Making Global Goals Local Business strategy, the UN Global Compact announced today that it was equipping its Local Networks in 80 counties to carry out SDG implementation strategies, including: promoting the SDGs in their countries, convening multi-stakeholder dialogues, inspiring new partnerships and contributing to national plans. The UN Global Compact has provided toolkits to its Local Networks ranging from basic awareness raising to advanced multi-year strategy planning, especially focused on partnerships and engaging in National SDG Action Plans.
  • Breakthrough Innovation Challenge: To drive radical innovation that advance the SDGs, the UN Global Compact today announced a challenge for young innovators within leading companies to design future business models enabled by disruptive technology. The programme is a partnership between Global Compact LEAD, The DO School and Volans.
  • SDG Advocate Letter to CEOs: Yesterday in remarks at the Summit, SDG Advocate and Founder of The Voice of Libyan Women, Alaa Murabit, announced that a letter to all Fortune 500 CEOs has been sent urging them to commit to doing business responsibly and aligning with the SDGs. Commitments will be shared in September around the UN General Assembly opening week.
  • SDG Industry Matrix Series: The UN Global Compact and KPMG announced two new editions to the SDG Industry Matrix series focusing on Healthcare & Life Sciences and Industrial Manufacturing. These build on existing matrices for Financial Services and Food, Beverage and Consumer Goods.

Following the Summit, the next milestone in the Making Global Goals Local Business strategy will be the UN Private Sector Forum on 19 September at UN Headquarters in New York, bringing together Heads of State and Government with chief executives and civil society leaders to explore the role of business in addressing conflicts and instability.

Margaret Fenwick
UN GlobalCompact
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