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Companies Reaffirm Commitment to Sustainable Development Goals During UN Week

By Sarah Bostwick Stromoski, Manager, CEO Leadership, CECP

Photo: UN Global Compact/Zef Nikolla.

General Assembly week at the United Nations (UN) in New York City was a busy one, thanks to CECP’s second CEO Investor Forum and dozens of other events related to sustainable development.  As expected, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were front and center throughout.

CECP Activities

  • CEO Daryl Brewster joined some 200 CEOs of corporations and civil society organizations and heads of state at the UN Private Sector Forum on September 18 to discuss how to finance the estimated $1.4T per annum needed to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.  Headliners: Mastercard Vice Chairman Walt Macnee, Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider, UN Secretary General António Guterres, former US Vice President Al Gore.
  • At “Business for the SDGs: Innovation, Technology & Connectivity for a Better Future for All” on September 18, Daryl Brewster emphasized actions companies in the CEO Force for Good are taking to address some of society’s most pressing social and environmental challenges.  In the audience were representatives of the mobile industry.  He said collaborative efforts, working with CEOs, and engaging the capital markets are ways the CEO Force for Good is setting the foundation upon which we can advance the Sustainable Development Goals through the world’s largest companies as a force for good.
  • We attended the UN Global Compact’s annual Leaders Summit on September 21 alongside representatives of some 150 companies.  Notables.
    • Unilever CEO Paul Polman suggested that if we start to expect businesspeople to get as good at maximizing returns on their social and environmental capital as they are at getting returns on their financial capital, we can achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. In Why Sustainable Development Makes Good Business Sense, Polman argues sustainable development isn’t just the right thing to do, it also makes business sense.  He shares how he convinced investors to embrace sustainability so that now 70% have held his shares for 3+ years.
    • Suez CEO Jean-Louis Chaussade cited three reasons to act on the Sustainable Development Goals: (1) I have no choice.  (2) What is good for the planet is good for my children.  (3) It is profitable business.
    • Oxfam America CEO Abby Maxman said more and more smart companies seek out “critical friends” like Oxfam to make them better.
  • We attended the Concordia Annual Summit on September 18.  Radcliffe Foundation Founder & President Frank Giustra; UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi; Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Ahmed Hussen led the “Mobilizing the Private Sector in Support of Refugees & Migrants.” See Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative and private sponsorship of refugees program. Speakers have not been overwhelmed by private sector response. 3 shifts required in:
    • Perspective on refugees from a short-term lens (which invites acts of corporate kindness) to a long-term, macro trend (to create space for investment, resources and creativity).
    • Proximity. Private sector is too far removed from reality and needs to get closer to human realities.
    • Paradigm when the private sector starts viewing refugees as entrepreneurs, as employees (both skilled & non-skilled labor), and as informed consumers who represent the market.

Elsewhere Around Town

  • Bloomberg’s Global Business Forum on September 20 hosted numerous prominent CEOs
    • Remarks by LeBron James, Jack Ma, Emmanuel Macron, and Michael Bloomberg here.
    • CEO Tim Cook discussed immigration and diversity at Apple, STEM education, and corporate values
  • Fortune/Time CEO Initiative gathered on September 25:
    • How Capitalism Can Cope with Its Crisis in the Fortune CEO Daily
    • Highlights. Ohio Governor John Kasich proposed health care reform. UN Secretary General António Guterres promoted gender quotas. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich pondered constructive confrontation at work. GoDaddy, Salesforce, and Kaiser Permanente frightened themselves in the interest of diversity & inclusion.  JP Morgan bet big on Detroit. Uber Director Ariana Huffington suggested how to fix its broken corporate culture.
  • Edelman CEO Richard Edelman summarized what he took away from UN General Assembly week here.
  • At the UN’s High-Level Event on Innovation & Technology – SDG Innovation on September 18,  LinkedIn Founder & CEO Reid Hoffman called on “entrepreneurs of all sorts” to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. “Commercial entrepreneurs can mean more than economic profits. They can bring returns to society, too. And there also needs to be social entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs within organizations.”
  • The Gates Foundation hosted its inaugural Goalkeepers event on September 20.  Bill Gates, Barack Obama, and Justin Trudeau headlined.  Multisector accelerators were launched to support women’s movements, community health workers, digital financial inclusion, and child nutrition.

Sustainable Development Goals: New Resources

The UN and its supporters have launched a host of resources in 2017 to spur progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals.  Augment your library with the following classics and new resources:

SDG Compass by UN Global Compact, GRI, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)
Blueprint for Business Leadership on SDGs (new) by UN Global Compact, GRI
Industry Matrix by UN Global Compact
Global Opportunity Explorer (new) by UN Global Compact, Sustainia, DNV-GL
Navigating the SDGs: A Business Guide to Engaging with the UN Global Goals by PwC
SDG Reporting: An Analysis of the Goals and Targets (new) by UN Global Compact, GRI
Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform by the United Nations
Business for 2030
CEO Guide to the SDGs by WBCSD
SDG Business Hub by WBCSD
Valuing the SDG Prize: Unlocking Business Opportunities to Accelerate Sustainable & Inclusive Growth by the Business & Sustainable Development Commission
SDGs: You’re Already More Aligned than You May Think by CECP: The CEO Force for Good