Ms. Maria Francesca Spatolisano Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs

Opening Remarks
Lead, Transform, Success: Chief Sustainability Officers for SDGs

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to welcome such notable sustainable business leaders to the United Nations for this year’s Chief Sustainability Officers for SDGs event.

Let me extend my gratitude to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development for your extraordinary support and collaboration to make this event happen, for the third time, during HLPF.

The 2030 Agenda remains the most compelling universal roadmap we have for overcoming global challenges and achieve sustainable development.

Four years into implementation, it is encouraging to see how the Sustainable Development Goals have galvanized action around across all countries: Member States are mainstreaming the goals through setting national policies and strategies. Companies are integrating the SDGs into their business strategies, addressing sustainability efforts throughout their supply chain, and partnering with other actors to find solutions to pressing global issues.

Local and regional governments are localizing the Goals among communities, and civil society organizations are actively building awareness around the global Agenda.

However, despite these efforts – and as we have been hearing throughout the HLPF – we are not on track when it comes to achieving the SDGs. A deeper, more ambitious and integrated response is urgently needed.

Recent reports show that actions are indeed present, but insufficient for some SDG targets. And for others, the trends are going in the wrong direction.

It is particularly alarming that our earth may be approaching tipping points in biodiversity loss and green-house gas emissions, and therefore irreversibly degrading the natural systems that sustain us.

Entry points are needed to apply the wealth of knowledge and technology we have at hand to accelerate progress. Working across silos can help to take into account the effects any single action can have across multiple development goals.


Today’s event is a timely opportunity to hear from a broad range of experienced and effective business actors about the challenges they face in integrating the SDGs into business strategies, and to share solutions.

  • What has worked and how can others learn from this?
  • How can businesses use the SDGs as a new lens through which to translate global needs and ambitions into business solutions?

Achieving a transformative society must begin with transforming the way we operate:

  • how we make decisions,
  • how we design policies,
  • how we ensure more sustainable and fair employment, and
  • how we engage with communities and consumers.

This will require a shift in mindset. It starts from the way business school students are educated about the SDGs, and extends through the whole continuum of learning, including executive education, which will be the topic of the third panel.

Indeed, no one actor can achieve the 2030 Agenda alone. As Chief Sustainability Officers, you are well positioned to make the business case for the SDGs, and to generate internal buy-in from your companies. Your critical role in making this happen cannot be overemphasized. Ultimately, if a significant economic or social group is left behind, our development is not sustainable.

Only through working in partnership will we be able to deliver a more ambitious response to 21st century challenges. I am looking forward to hearing specific examples of public-private partnerships for achieving impact at scale.
Ladies and Gentlemen,

This September, world leaders will gather at UN Headquarters to accelerate progress on sustainable development. In the lead up to the SDG Summit, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs is collecting “SDG Acceleration Actions”, or initiatives voluntarily undertaken by countries and other actors, that contribute to accelerating implementation of the 2030 Agenda. All Governments, businesses and stakeholders can register such acceleration actions through the SDG Summit website.

I look forward to hearing about your new ideas, commitments and solutions in support of the 2030 Agenda!

Thank you.

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