New York

23 September 2020

Secretary-General's video message aired at the SDG Business Forum

Ladies and gentlemen, business leaders, friends,

It is a pleasure to greet you today for the SDG Business Forum. I am encouraged that so many companies are represented this year — with a diversity of sizes, sectors and regions — because we need unity and international cooperation now more than ever.
 
The business of sustainable development is a crucial issue, and we are addressing it at a crucial moment.
 
This is a moment of crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to the most serious social and economic upheaval since the United Nations was created 75 years ago.
 
It has exposed our global fragility, which extends far beyond health systems. Fragility affects all our global institutions and multilateral efforts. We see it in our inadequate response to the climate crisis, in the weakness of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and the lawlessness of cyberspace.
 
To tackle this fragility, we need unity and solidarity. Returning to old, discredited systems is out of the question.
 
The pandemic is a tragedy – but it has also created a moment of possibility.
 
Governments and the private sector have already changed their working methods more quickly than ever before. The previously unimaginable has suddenly become possible and even desirable. Everywhere, we see new thinking, innovation and transformation.
 
Governments and businesses must now work together to shift direction.
 
That is the only way to weather the pandemic, build resilience for the future and achieve  the Sustainable Development Goals.
 
In our 75th anniversary year, the United Nations is not interested in business as usual.
 
We need business unusual: business that is stepping up and taking responsibility for today and tomorrow, assessing the long-term costs and benefits of its activities; working in partnership with civil society, young people, academia and more to create strong communities and resilient societies.
 
Equality, inclusiveness and sustainability are no longer nice-to-have, optional extras to build a more caring brand.
 
They are the indispensable keys to recovering from the pandemic and building healthy and prosperous economies and societies.  
 
I thank you all for your engagement and commitment. And I thank the International Chamber of Commerce, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and the United Nations Global Compact for organizing this event and for uniting business in the service of a better world. I urge all of you to sign on to the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact, if you have not yet done so.
 
I hope your discussions today will lead to concrete steps towards the sustainable world we so urgently need.
 
Thank you.