16 June 2020

Deputy-Secretary-General Spotlights Role of Business in Building Greener, Fairer, More Inclusive World After COVID-19, at Global Compact Leaders Summit

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed’s remarks to the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit, in New York, today:

It is a pleasure to join you all today to close out what has been the United Nations largest, most inclusive and most sustainable convening of the global business community.  As we mark 20 years of the United Nations Global Compact uniting business for a better world, it is inspiring to see so many purpose-driven business leaders stepping up to tackle societal challenges and advance the Sustainable Development Goals.

For the past 26 hours, we have heard from leading voices representing business, Government, the United Nations, youth, civil society and academia.  More than 20,000 of you from over 180 countries have joined us for this historic event, demonstrating the truly global and multi-stakeholder nature of this community.

I am particularly encouraged that more than 20 United Nations partners hosted their own virtual pavilions during the Summit.  This highlights the many ways the United Nations system is engaging with the private sector every day.

Allow me to take a moment to reflect on the many exciting announcements and conversations we have seen at this historic summit.

With the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals business benchmarks, through the SDG Ambition initiative, we heard about opportunities to genuinely transform the way companies gauge whether corporate activities are aiming at the necessary level of ambition to deliver on the Goals.

When it comes to leadership for the Decade of Action, we discussed what can be learned from business leaders who are integrating sustainability across strategy, operations and stakeholder engagement and what this means for how board and C-suite leaders are selected.  We had insights into how the COVID-19 crisis could be an opportunity to leapfrog many challenges and experiences as we go digital.

The United Nations Global Compact Twentieth Anniversary Progress Report findings provided a wealth of insight into where companies are currently prioritizing their efforts, showing real engagement across the board.  However, companies need to take more ambitious actions, at scale, to meet the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

We saw businesses announce support for key Global Compact programmes, such as Target Gender Equality, which supports companies on their journey to achieve gender balance in business leadership.

There was no issue area left untouched, with diverse sessions with leading experts from around the world covering topics such as:  The need for foundational human rights due diligence; the role of bribery prevention and detection; the importance of ambitious science-based corporate climate action; and the need to shift from crisis management to long-term recovery when it comes to sustainable finance, among many others.

This summit has also illustrated the critical role that Global Compact Local Networks play in advancing responsible business action at a regional and country level.  Without them we would not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

I am especially encouraged by the discussions we saw around the world, focused on how we can rebuild more inclusive economies and societies to set a new course for a socially just, low-carbon and climate-resilient world, where no one is left behind.

Today, however, we are living in a moment of immense crisis and uncertainty.  With COVID-19, we face a global health, humanitarian, and development emergency with no parallel in the United Nations history.  Millions of lives and livelihoods and decades of development progress are under threat.

The crisis has laid bare massive fragilities and deficits that define our world today — from staggering levels of poverty and inequalities, to the persistence of norms and practices that underpin gender inequality, to a weakening of international cooperation and trust in institutions.

The seeds for further social and political unrest are being sown, and we are already seeing COVID-19’s unequal impacts intertwine with longstanding injustices, including racism.  As protests fill streets and squares around the world, there is an urgent need for leadership in recognizing and pushing back against systemic racism and police brutality everywhere.

This is where all business leaders can speak up and use their influence.  There are many steps you can take to reject racism and all injustices.

Begin by reviewing your companies.  Adopt strong policies, investments and actions that tackle racism and inequalities. 

Provide training on racial justice and discrimination.  Invest in people of colour and other marginalized communities through education, internships and employment.

Help to ensure that your employees, customers and networks engage with accurate, fact-based information — including through the United Nations new “Verified” initiative. 

Please join us on 30 June in asking everyone to “pause” before sharing questionable content on social media platforms.

Diversity is a strength, not a weakness.  To pave the way towards real change, all of society must work together to strengthen social protection systems, eliminate all forms of discrimination and provide equal opportunities.  Social cohesion is a strong safety net for times like these.

These crises can be the wake-up call the world desperately needs; the spark that ignites inclusive and sustainable recovery, kickstarting a Decade of Action.

I applaud those of you who are already active participants, and I encourage those of you who are new to this incredible community to join us.  More than ever, we need all companies to further integrate the Ten Principles [of the Global Compact] into their business models, and raise ambition across operations, supply chains, investments and public policies.

I know you will demonstrate your leadership by setting goals aligned with these global benchmarks.  Your role as champions for these efforts will be critical in mainstreaming these Sustainable Development Goals ambitions for companies everywhere.

Here, I want to also emphasize the important role that women and the young are playing in driving forward these transformations at the local level.  We know that gender equality must be understood and prioritized like the economic and business imperative that it is.  Financially, it makes total business sense.

This extraordinary summit has delivered, debated and inspired us all to reach beyond the stars.  It has renewed our energy and vision for a world where human beings and the planet are at the core of any interests.

In conclusion, I want to deeply appreciate my sister and friend Lise Kingo for her immense contributions in leading the United Nations Global Compact for the past five years and for broadening its contribution to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Her leadership and passion to see everyone everywhere part of the journey has been inspiring.

As the Global Compact enters its next phase, I look forward to working closely with a new friend and sister, Sanda Ojiambo, to build on the many successes of the past 20 years to take the community of the Global Compact to even greater heights.

It is possible to achieve the Goals by 2030 — eradicating poverty, reducing global inequalities, empowering young people and women everywhere and shifting the world onto a 1.5°C trajectory.

Thank you, Paul, Bola, Lise and team, and to each and everyone for joining us for this 26-hour event and being the reason for its success.  Let us leave with the knowledge that we are committed to being united in the business of a better world.

For information media. Not an official record.