The multilateral talks, photo-ops and diplomacy of the recent United Nations General Assembly may be in the history boosks, but the work goes on. Today, the global community comes together again—this time to celebrate United Nations Day which commemorates the 74th anniversary of the UN Charter.
This anniversary gives us the opportunity to have a closer look at how businesses can collaborate with the UN and support the global path towards a better and brighter future for all.
Our global community faces increased disruption from political, social and environmental challenges—from violent conflicts in countries such as Syria and Yemen to the global climate crisis. The good news? We’re making progress on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
According to World Bank estimates, almost 1.1 billion fewer people are living in extreme poverty now in comparison to 1990. The cooperative framework the UN and its numerous bodies have been providing since 1945 have had widespread success in advancing the human agenda. Through what has come to be known as a blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, the 193 current UN Member States adopted a bright and bold action plan in 2015. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been ground-breaking for a number of reasons.
First, they present a comprehensive and truly global action plan, which is adaptable to the huge variety of challenges we face today. Through the unanimous decision by all 193 UN Member States to support the implementation of these 17 SDGs, this Agenda has been given a powerful global voice.
And secondly, this agenda goes beyond typical day-to-day international cooperation. It represents an unprecedented closing of ranks between Governments, businesses, NGOs, and civil society, all of which are able to benefit from a more sustainable future for all.
In particular the role the private sector can take on in supporting the United Nations in their quest for a more prosperous and peaceful future is worth highlighting. The cooperation between the private sector and the UN has already established a number of fruitful initiatives, such as the UN Global Compact—a network of more than 13.00 corporate participants from more than 170 countries supporting the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals as well as the previous Millenium Development Goals. Nevertheless, the current momentum for enhanced collaboration between businesses and the UN is remarkable.
While UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres emphasizes the need for governments to take the lead in living up to their pledges, he sees the private sector to be the driving force to push governments to assume their responsibilities and to drive success.
Businesses worldwide play a fundamental role in advancing the Sustainable Development agenda and their support of the UN in achieving to wipe out extreme poverty, tackle climate change and fight inequality has also proven to be crucial for the companies themselves. As Keith Weed, CMO of Unilever, tells The Guardian:
Lately, private sector representatives are increasingly becoming aware of the fact that their consumers expect companies to step up to help solve social justice and environmental sustainability issues. An active involvement in the UN’s countless initiatives and a comprehensive and honest approach to their Corporate Social Responsibility can give an edge to a company’s position and often turns out to enable a sustainable competitive advantage.
How can businesses support the UN and its mission most effectively? Introduced by former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2015, the SDG Compass provides a comprehensive guidance for companies on how they can best align their strategic agenda to the goals of the United Nations. In essence, this tool gives private sector representatives the opportunity to measure and manage their contribution to the implementation of the SDGs.
While the initial focus of this tool was on large multinational businesses, medium and small organizations and enterprises have since been encouraged to adapt the guide as necessary and to use it as a source of inspiration.
In line with their respective CSR agendas, companies can apply the SDG Compass to set or align their policies through five steps which are aimed at maximizing their contribution to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In total, on today’s United Nations Day, it’s important to remember that we only have eleven years left for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. While governments worldwide have already pledged their support, now is the time for businesses to act.
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