Deputy Secretary-General, at SDG Business Forum Event, Stresses Duty of Corporate Leaders to Create Value Not Just in Next Quarter, But Also for Future Generations

17 July 2018

Deputy Secretary-General, at SDG Business Forum Event, Stresses Duty of Corporate Leaders to Create Value Not Just in Next Quarter, But Also for Future Generations

Following are UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Business Forum high‑level luncheon, in New York today:

It is a pleasure to join you for this high-level lunch of the SDG Business Forum.

This morning we heard interesting and inspiring stories about innovative and business solutions for the SDGs.  We heard about multi‑stakeholder partnerships — about the private sector working with Governments, the United Nations and other stakeholders to implement the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development].  And we heard how the SDGs offer tremendous business opportunities.

We at the United Nations are greatly encouraged to see businesses everywhere taking concrete steps to embed the Goals into their core business.  We also welcome the growing number of senior executives who are championing the Goals.  As the Secretary‑General has said, without business engagement, the 2030 Agenda will remain just fine aspirations on paper.

At the same time, we still face major challenges in turning policies into action, in particular when it comes to companies setting targets, conducting impact assessments and monitoring performance.  On the positive side, increasing numbers of companies are reporting publicly on their sustainability commitments.  Many companies find that reporting itself helps them advance their efforts.

However, driving sustainability through the supply chain remains a challenge, with many larger companies citing this as their main sustainability challenge.  The complexity, know‑how and resources required to deliver sustainability also holds back many small and medium enterprises.

Fortunately, there is a growing number of practical, innovative examples to build on across a variety of sectors.  On Goal 6, an energy company invests in natural wetlands around company operations to treat at least the same amount of water resources as the amount it extracts and refines.  On Goal 7, certain energy companies are working to reduce their carbon footprint and increase the use of cutting‑edge renewables.  Businesses across all sectors are increasingly embracing energy efficiency as a way to lower costs.

On Goal 11, companies are developing stronger urban infrastructure that is more resilient in the face of climate shocks and extreme weather.  On Goal 12, innovations in recycling are showing us that we can achieve a future where production and consumption no longer push so desperately against our planetary boundaries.  Companies are increasingly embracing the concept of turning waste into wealth.

On Goal 15, banks, insurance companies and other players in the financial services industry are aligning their products and services with policies that aim to protect biodiversity.  And on Goal 17, an increasing number of companies recognize that cross‑sector partnerships are critical drivers of progress.  I want to thank those of you in the room today making partnerships a key element of your sustainability strategies.

These are just a few examples of leadership from large, established global corporate players.  But of course, there are many other examples of innovation and new business models from companies of all sectors and sizes, in all regions.  Looking ahead, I encourage larger companies to support young entrepreneurs, small businesses and women in business leadership — and thereby empower a new generation of change agents.

Let us also work together to improve information and analysis of corporate sustainability performance.  As we will hear over lunch, important efforts are under way, but we urgently need to bring these to scale.  We can turn investments into opportunities with huge returns.  I particularly welcome the benchmarking movement — a much‑needed effort to ensure we keep score in a consistent and comparable way on corporate contributions to the SDGs.

I am also pleased to see the development of new tools and resources to help all businesses report on sustainability in an investor‑relevant way.  These efforts are critical, not just for transparency and accountability.  By better measuring and communicating corporate impact, we will empower the growing movement of responsible investors who want to support sustainable development, knowing that this is the wisest long‑term investment strategy.  We will also be able to better reward those business leaders who recognize their most important responsibility:  to create value not just in the next quarter, but for the next generation and beyond.

Thank you for your presence here today and the role you are playing in upholding the 2030 Agenda’s core promise to leave no one behind.

For information media. Not an official record.