UN forum highlights ‘fundamental’ role of private sector in advancing new global goals

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas (file)

26 September 2015 – The fundamental role of the private sector in advancing the newly-adopted sustainable development agenda was highlighted today at a United Nations forum, during which a new tool was launched to support companies in navigating and operationally aligning with the global goals that make up the agenda.

“Governments must take the lead in living up to their pledges. At the same time, I am counting on the private sector to drive success,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told more than 350 leaders of business, government, civil society as well as UN officials.

“Now is the time to mobilize the global business community as never before. The case is clear. Realizing the Sustainable Development Goals will improve the environment for doing business and building markets. Trillions of dollars in public and private funds are to be redirected towards the SDGs, creating huge opportunities for responsible companies to deliver solutions.”

The 17 SDGs are part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to wipe out extreme poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 15 years.

“The SDGs are unprecedented in their ambition – but the fundamental ways that business can contribute remain unchanged,” Mr. Ban stated. “First, companies need to do business responsibly and then pursue new opportunities. In short, companies must not make our world’s problems worse before they try to make them better.”

The Forum sought to increase understanding of efforts underway by the private sector and civil society, and provide a platform for the private sector to announce long-term goals and partnerships that will make an important contribution towards achieving sustainable development for all.

It also featured the launch of a new tool – the SDG compass.

“What the SDG compass is all about is, how can we make it easy for every business in the world to look at the SDGs, to align their strategies, to master and manage the things that are going to help contribute to those SDGs and to then be radically transparent about the progress we make,” said Peter Bagger, President & CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, as he introduced the new tool.

The guide outlines five steps for companies to maximize their contribution to the global goals – understanding the SDGs, defining priorities, setting goals, then integrating, reporting and communicating on them.

Meanwhile, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark underlined that the new sustainable development agenda cannot be achieved without business.

“One of the most wonderful examples I think is what’s been happening in the palm oil sector,” she explained. “It’s been a sector which has struggled with the fact that a lot of the product has been procured from land which was deforested. Well not anymore because most of the procuring power for palm oil is now committed to deforestation-free supply chains, making a huge contribution to climate change mitigation, to biodiversity, to sustainability.”

Business leaders also heard from the President of the 70th session of the General Assembly on how the new goals need to be communicated to professional communities worldwide.

“We must mobilize a much larger and more varied set of financial resources than was relying on for meeting the [Millennium Development Goals],” said Mogens Lykketoft. “Of course, national governments will continue to have a primary responsibility for financing and managing their own development […] but it will not be enough.”

He further noted that large companies as well as wealthy individuals need to pay their taxes where they earn their money, and that all countries should collaborate to build institutions that can manage the fight against corruption and tax evasion.

Among the numerous speakers that addressed the Forum was Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who highlighted the vital role that having access to technology can play.

“Research shows that for every 10 people who gain access to the Internet, about one person gets lifted out of poverty,” he told the gathering.

“By connecting more people in developing countries, we have an opportunity to create more than 140 million new jobs, lift 160 million people out of poverty, and give more than 600 million children access to affordable learning tools.”

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