Stine Lise Hattestad Bratsberg representing Norway and the business perspective on the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Leave no one behind.” This is the main topic for the first High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development, which I am attending in New York this week. It’s common thinking that UN is just a “talk shop” for grand ideas, but this event represents a moment of conversation in setting a global agenda: The UN is taking a more active role in reaching out, listening to voices from the field, and speaking out for them. As a result, the speed on the development of knowledge around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been impressive since their adoption in September 2015.
But without regulation, policies, and incentives at the national level, we will not be able to maintain this pace. All stakeholders need to be on-board – including the private sector. The business world needs a push, and I believe they are ready for it.
New research from the UN Global Compact and Accenture shows that 87% of world business leaders believe that the SDGs are an essential opportunity to rethink approaches to sustainable value creation. Eighty-four percent of world business leaders call for greater local collaboration with national government on action plans, while 73% believe that businesses should develop common indicators to measure and communicate impact on the SDGs.
Businesses are ready to work on shared value principles.
As a company, it’s important to remember that you are allowed to earn money at the same time as you are solving global challenges. In fact, according to the shared value framework, this is actually the only way to find sustainable solutions for social, environmental, and economic problems.
We need to lift the SDGs from a vision statement for business and put it into the operative strategic work of companies directly. Some companies have already started, like the ones I know of from the Nordic Countries:
IKEA, for example, designs products to be more affordable and more sustainable. Fertilizer company Yara increases productivity and sales in Tanzania by improving the livelihoods of local farmers. More local Norwegian Nordic examples of this work include Flytoget (high-speed rail), Aker BioMarine (sustainable fishing), and TOMRA (recycling). Additionally, global businesses like Unilever with CEO Paul Polman in the front are doing their best to lead this work on an international level.
So in the spirit of “leaving no one behind,” in this truly collaborative effort we should encourage the business world to lead on the implementation of the SDGs. However, at the same time, we must remember that nobody is perfect. As the business world learns into this new area of shared value work, we should allow them room for mistakes on their way!
Stine Lise Hattestad Bratsberg (at right), Founder of Pure Consulting, was invited by UN to be a lead discussant, representing the business perspective at the High-Level Political Forum where she is part of the Norwegian delegation.