United Nations, June 25- The United Nations General Assembly Hall, the site of many historic events, today was the venue for another -- a projected heightened role for business in the forthcoming UN Sustainable Development Goals and the retirement of Georg Kell, the Global Compact's founding (2000) Executive Director.
The General Assembly meeting was framed by the just-released comprehensive, independent Global Compact fifteen year impact report, "Impact - Transforming, Business, Changing The World". Key conclusions of the report, prepared by DNV GL: "Sustainability is now firmly on the global business agenda, but there is an urgent need to turn words into action ... the UN Global Compact, as the world's largest sustainability initiative, and the business community have had an impact on the development of sustainability over the past 15 years."
More specifically, DNV GL found that:
Sustainability is gradually penetrating deeper into markets and sectors around the world.
More sustainability issues - equality, climate change and corruption - are now on the corporate agenda because they impact performance.
The financial sector shows positive developments - through its support for the GC-related Principles of Responsible Investment, rapid developments of green bonds and the Sustainable Stock Exchange Initiative.
Local Global Compact networks are very effective in engaging local businesses on the issues that are important in their areas.
But the "Impact" report also cautions: "We need to mobilize the vast majority of companies. Sustainability must be part of daily business -- embedded in our business models".
Bottom line: "Sustainability is the business of business."
The Secretary General issues a challenge
Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, addressing the attending business leaders from the around the world and the need for sustainability partnering, was unusually blunt: "You need to make sure that your houses are in order", consistent with the Global Compact and the Sustainable Development Goals. He called sustainability "transformative" and "a smart investment."
Leaders of the private sector and civil society also emphasized the global opportunities, progress and challenges of sustainable development.
Paul Bulcke, CEO of Nestle SA: "We have integrated sustainable development into our business and urge all companies to do so." He noted that one of the central Global Compact platforms, "Caring For Climate" has longterm implications for supply chains in less developed countries dependent on reliable growing and harvesting conditions.
Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, reminded the diplomats in the Assembly of the progress being made in women's empowerment and responsible investment but also spoke of the challenges ahead in addressing human rights issues.
Retirement of the UN Global Compact Sustainable Development Leader
It is not hyperbolic to call Georg Kell the conscience and heart of the Global Compact.
The fifteen year growth and success of the Compact is a direct reflection of his untiring dedication to an embryonic idea when, in 1999, then Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggested that the power of the global private sector be marshaled to address UN humanitarian objectives.
Today, the Global Compact coordinates the commitment of over 12,000 companies and other stakeholders around the world to help achieve UN goals through responsible business practices and partnerships.
In today's press conference and during the Assembly meeting, Georg Kell, ever self-effacing, took no credit for this impressive societal achievement. Instead, he directed our attention to the future: "There are enormous positive changes possible and we all have overlapping interests. The Global Compact is ready for the future."
Business in Society www.businessinsociety.net , @Biz_in_Society reports regularly on CSR and sustainable development in a variety of social and legacy media. John Paluszek, executive producer, is also senior counsel at Ketchum.