United Nations, September 29 – Now comes the hard part: Implementing the UN’s “supremely ambitious” 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
Pope Francis is back in Rome (although his aura lingers). Many delegates to the UN 70th General Assembly, “Transforming Agenda," are packing to return home. The global economy is slowing. The world’s media will soon avert their gaze.
Reasons enough for critics and cynics to question the plausibility of, and prospects for, the newly-launched sustainable development long-term master plan. But wait. There are very strong counter-arguments (experts can undoubtedly expand this list).
The case for success
Maturing of the Sustainable Development business model. It’s not just the impressive numbers (such as the UN Global Compact’s participants -- 8000 + companies and 4000 NGO, government and academic representatives). It’s the evolved understanding among these players that their partnerships on social issues can truly make a significant difference. And, centrally, it’s the many innovative company leaders who integrate ESG strategies into business models that serve, and increasingly resonate with, all of their stakeholders.
Global urgencies, global gestalt. The refugees crisis. Mounting evidence of climate change and its projected destabilizing outcomes. These global urgencies, and others, have “focused the minds” of international leaders on the need for action like that to be generated by the SDGs. The UN is facilitating international response to the tragic plight of millions of refugees. And the first truly global coalition on the environment, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, reflects the growing commitment to such transformative international cooperation even when arduous.
Internet’s current and potential impact. Digital communications technology has represented risk/opportunity on social issues; setbacks anywhere can be known immediately, but on the other hand institutions can reach and motivate their stakeholders with great efficiency. Now, potential Internet universal connectivity could contribute significantly to SDGs progress. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: “For every ten people who get connected to the Internet, one gets lifted out of poverty.”
The Pope Francis/United Nations SDG convergence and the moral imperative. Business leaders proclaimed this repeatedly throughout the 2030 Sustainable Development meetings: “It’s the right thing to do!” Pope Francis’s inspiring humanitarian messages at the UN last week catalyzed this motivation. Moreover, two of the most powerful institutions on earth – The United Nations and The Vatican – share a comprehensive SDGs mission, perhaps leading to deeper, formal, long-term cooperation.
Learnings from the Millennial Development Goals. In 2001, the MDGs broke ground illustrating how the power of the private sector can be fruitfully engaged in addressing global social issues. Building on that progress, the UN and SDGs participants are expanding mission scope to “all countries, all people”. Importantly, measurable indicators of progress are to be developed and applied early-on by the UN and by national governments.
“Exciting time to make business a force for good”
Even with these supportive macro changes in global society, it would be naïve to think of the 2030 SDGs as anything like a “cake-walk”. Progress will be hard-earned, gradual and, yes, long-term.
It seems fitting, therefore, to close this last in the triduum of CSRWIre special reports on “Transforming our world –The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” by citing the view of a new source of energy and experience in pursuit of those goals – the recently appointed Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, Ms. Lise Kingo: “I believe there is no more exciting time to be working with companies around the world to make business a force for good … For all companies, the SDGs provide a global aspiration and common direction that can stimulate innovation, investments and positive engagement.”
Business in Society, @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