24 June 2016

Secretary-General Announces Common Ground Initiative, with Advertising’s ‘Big Six’ Supporting Sustainable Development Goals

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced today the launch of a first-of-its-kind initiative developed among the six largest communications businesses globally in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

“Today, the communications industry is taking a historic, first-of-its-kind step to beat poverty, injustice and inequality,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.  “The six biggest communications businesses in the world have risen to what some may have said was an impossible test.  They have agreed to put their differences aside in support of a joint unique and exciting initiative to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs.”

Emphasizing that success required a serious, 15-year partnership for humanity, he called the new initiative “both an example and a challenge to all of us to find our own common ground for the common good”.

Common Ground was developed among Dentsu, Havas, IPG, Omnicom, Publicis Groupe and WPP.  In a joint statement, Tadashi Ishii, Chief Executive Officer and President of Dentsu; Yannick Bolloré, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Havas; Michael Roth, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of IPG; John Wren, President and Chief Executive Officer of Omnicom; Maurice Lévy, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Publicis Groupe; and Sir Martin Sorrell, founder and Chief Executive Officer of WPP, said:  “The Common Ground initiative recognizes that the global issues the United Nations has identified transcend commercial rivalry.  By working in partnership to support the Sustainable Development Goals, we want to demonstrate that even fierce competitors can set aside their differences in order to serve a wider common interest.  We hope others in and beyond our own business decide to do the same.”

The Secretary-General said:  “The timing is right for this type of innovation.  We are in the first year of implementing a 15-year plan.  Getting it on track at the beginning is critical to achieving our goals at the end.  The communications industry is famous for its creativity and energy.  The United Nations fully supports channelling this dynamism towards answering the greatest challenges facing our planet and humanity.”

The sustainable development agenda, unanimously adopted by world leaders in September 2015, is the most ambitious anti-poverty, pro-planet agenda ever before agreed upon, with the Sustainable Development Goals anchored at its centre.  The 2030 Agenda clearly defines common goals, applying to all nations and aiming at leaving no one behind.

Common Ground

The new collaboration will start immediately, with two objectives:  to come together to help to address the Sustainable Development Goals and to encourage other industries to follow suit and find their own common ground.  Kick-starting the Common Ground programme will be a global advertising campaign, with space donated by key business and thought-leadership publications.

In addition, the six companies have agreed to provide a development fund for each of the winning ideas in the Cannes Young Lions competition, which, in 2016, was devoted solely to the Sustainable Development Goals.  Those funds, a first for the Young Lions Contest, will be used to develop the winning concepts and provide them the strongest possible chance of being put into practice.

2030 Agenda

In September 2015, United Nations Member States unanimously adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, focused on the three interconnected elements of economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection.  With 17 Sustainable Development Goals at its core, the Agenda is universal, integrated and transformative and aims to spur actions that will end poverty, reduce inequality and tackle climate change between now and 2030.

For more information, please visit or follow @GlobalGoalsUN on Twitter at and on Facebook at

Media contacts:  Francyne Harrigan, United Nations Department of Public Information, at tel.:  +1 917 428 7505, or e-mail:

For information media. Not an official record.