Business Forum Calls for Responsible Practices to Achieve SDGs
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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The Forum highlighted ways to communicate with and engage SMEs, the value of local-level partnerships to accelerate progress towards the 2030 Agenda, and a range of new tools to guide the business community in its efforts.

UN Global Compact CEO and Executive Director Lise Kingo said the private sector is “the fuel that can accelerate sustainable development” at the national and local levels.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed highlighted “responsible business” as one of the most powerful contributions companies can make to the 2030 Agenda.

17 July 2018: Many of the world’s biggest companies are increasingly engaged with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, according to participants attending the third annual SDG Business Forum on the sidelines of the 2018 meeting of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). The event brought together more than 600 representatives to discuss responsible business and alignment of business practices with the SDGs.

The Forum was co-hosted by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the UN Global Compact on 17 July 2018, in New York, US. It highlighted ways to communicate with and engage small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the value of local-level partnerships to accelerate progress towards the 2030 Agenda, and a range of new tools to guide the business community in its efforts.

In a keynote address, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed noted that private companies are aligning their business plans with the SDGs, official government delegations are increasingly including private sector representatives and, in some countries, the private sector plays a central role in national SDG implementation. Mohammed highlighted business contributions to the 2030 Agenda as “engines of employment,” and sources of finance, technological innovation and market-based solutions that bring opportunities for women, young people, and vulnerable groups. She said markets are increasingly integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into business models, and more investors are calling on companies to disclose corporate sustainability profiles. Acknowledging that more must be done, she called for long-term perspectives and supportive regulatory frameworks to take advantage of the investment opportunities provided by the SDGs.

Markets are increasingly integrating environmental, social and governance factors into business models.

Mohammed announced that the UN Secretary-General will host a High-level Meeting on Financing the 2030 Agenda in September 2018 to address the “large financing gap” for the SDGs. The meeting will focus on: aligning global financial and economic policies with the 2030 Agenda; enhancing sustainable financing strategies; and the potential of new technologies and the digital revolution to provide equitable access to finance.

UN Global Compact CEO and Executive Director Lise Kingo said businesses must step up and contribute the expertise, innovation and investments needed to “turn aspirations into reality,” and that the private sector is “the fuel that can accelerate sustainable development” at the national and local levels. She urged businesses to begin to measure progress, noting that “we are now 1000 days in on the route to 2030.”

International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Secretary General John Denton called for scaling up corporate engagement, as 60% of businesses worldwide are not engaged in the 2030 Agenda. He expressed hope that more businesses will embrace sustainability in their core operations and shape meaningful policy changes to enable the private sector to go “further and faster.”

UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin said businesses are critical for the creation of national-level multi-stakeholder platforms. Amy Jadesimi, CEO, Ladol, Nigeria, noted that sustainable companies will outperform non-sustainable companies over time, especially if investments are being made in local companies in Africa, for example, where markets are driven by incentives.

During the SDG Business Forum high‑level luncheon, UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Miroslav Lajcak reiterated that the SDGs need business, but business also needs the SDGs. UN Deputy Secretary-General Mohammed also spoke, detailing examples of how companies are striving for the SDGs. On SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), she said businesses are increasingly embracing energy efficiency to lower costs. On SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), she said companies are developing urban infrastructure that is more resilient to climate shocks and extreme weather. On SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), she noted innovations in recycling. On SDG 15 (life on land), she underscored that banks, insurance companies and others in the financial services industry are aligning their products and services with policies that protect biodiversity. She also welcomed the benchmarking movement, which aims to ensure consistent and comparable scoring regarding corporate contributions to the SDGs.

The SDG Business Forum, which was launched in 2015, has seen its participation grow, reflecting an increased interest by the private sector in the 2030 Agenda. [SDG Business Forum Website] [UN Global Compact Press Release at Conclusion of SDG Business Forum] [UN Press Release on Statement of the UN Deputy Secretary-General] [UN Global Compact Press Release Previewing SDG Business Forum] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Launch of ‘In Focus: Addressing Investor Needs in Reporting on the SDGs’] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]


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