9 July 2020
All Aboard for a Virtual HLPF – It’s Time for Transparency and Action
Photo by IISD | Lynn Wagner
story highlights

The contribution of the private sector remains under-rated by many countries, without sufficient engagement to progress the SDGs.

Global Reporting Initiative will be engaging with the HLPF by hosting a range of events focused on the role of corporate transparency in the SDGs.

It is paramount that the HLPF is not simply viewed as a date in the diary but as a catalyst for increasing the pace of change in support of the SDGs, all year round.

The UN High-Level Political Form (HLPF) is underway and lasts until 16 July. This annual assessment of the implementation of the SDGs by governments around the world is an important stock take – highlighting progress achieved and where greater effort is required.

An unintended but welcome consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic is that this year’s HLPF is almost exclusively an online occasion. This virtual format means it is the greenest and most inclusive yet – without the thousands of air miles being clocked up as delegates from around the globe descend on UN HQ in New York. And with a raft of events delivered online, involvement is expected to be more diverse than ever.

Ramping up global participation in the SDGs is crucial, if the looming 2030 Agenda deadline is to be achieved.  The 2020 HLPF will see 47 states present their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) – the country-led analysis of SDGs progress.

The contribution of the private sector remains under-rated by many countries, without sufficient engagement to progress the SDGs. At Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), we will be engaging with the Forum by hosting a range of events focused on the role of corporate transparency in the SDGs.

Our engagements began with a session with CDP on addressing SDG information gaps – and how improved data collection can contribute to a stable climate with reduced biodiversity losses. An engaging panel discussion covered environmental data transparency, tracking progress, understanding impact and raising ambition.

Alongside partners from seven organizations – including the International Labour Organization, UN Global Compact and UN Conference on Trade and Development – we are co-hosting an event on lessons learned from the pandemic to achieve sustainable and just economies (10 July).

This event will zero in on how to ensure the recovery points towards a development model that delivers benefits for prosperity, planet and people. Following a workshop format, it will explore experiences so far, covering the tools and information needed to incentivize an economic transition that supports jobs, social inclusion and social justice.

GRI’s involvement in the VNR process is centered on how partnerships between governments and the private sector, founded on insights from corporate reporting, can be a driver for change in support of the SDGs. And earlier this year, we published recommendations to help policymakers work with companies as part of national SDGs strategies.

On 14 July, we will hold an official HLPF side event on how to foster business contributions to the SDGs, with the governments of the Netherlands and Colombia as co-hosts. I’m excited about this session as it helps move the conversation from theory to fact, in terms of the benefits of business engagement for the SDGs.

With contributions and examples shared from Colombia and the Netherlands, the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, and Business Call to Action, we will seek to illustrate what can be achieved when national governments, the private sector and international organizations work together in support of sustainable and resilient societies.

Following hot on the heels of the conclusion of the official HLPF, GRI is holding a policy dialogue titled Last call for the SDGs – the role of transparency (21 July). We’ll be taking a deep dive into the current state of play when it comes to sustainability reporting policies, disclosure requirements and regulation. It will a include a range of expert perspectives and the launch of the 2020 edition of Carrots & Sticks, resource providing analysis of the reporting provisions and requirements in over 80 countries.

The evolving practice of sustainability reporting was part of the original Rio+20 outcome document, which among others led to the adoption of SDG target 12.6: to encourage companies to adopt sustainable practices and engage in sustainability reporting. Changes and trends that strengthen sustainability disclosures are, therefore, a crucial and underpinning element to achieving the responsible production and consumption Global Goal.

What’s paramount is that the HLPF is not simply a date in the diary but a catalyst for increasing the pace of change in support of the SDGs, all year round. The sharing of innovations and best practice is a key ingredient, including how to achieve effective government and private sector partnerships. At GRI, we will continue to bring groups together, collaborate, provoke if required and press for the transparency needed to secure the 2030 Agenda.

This article was written by Peter Paul van de Wijs, GRI Chief External Affairs Officer.


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