The United Nations Global Compact’s Uniting Business LIVE took a close look on Tuesday at ways to encourage and scale up sustainability efforts, discussing practical approaches and local solutions for business to embed the Sustainable Development Goals in their processes and practices.
Speakers at Tuesday’s Global Impact Forum noted that every company needs to weave the SDGs into the fabric of their work, taking advantage of innovation, creativity, new ideas and talent. Small and medium-sized enterprises, they said, are a key segment of the global economy, especially in developing nations, for the promotion of sustainability.
While sustainability has risen to the top of nearly everyone’s ‘to-do’ list, experts cautioned that promises can outweigh progress. One called it the “say-do divide.” Leadership might think it is driving the charge, but others in the company may not share the perception that the board, CEO, C-suite or senior managers are truly committed to action. The most effective leaders are those who lead by example, one panellist noted.
The best-placed companies, they agreed, are those that recognize and measure sustainability goals, and that the significance of the goals is much more than simply appearing to be socially responsible.
Business leaders said that barriers include the slow pace of change in corporate culture, organizational complexity, a lack of drive from top leadership and a lack of organizational investment and commitment.
Following opening remarks by the German Chancellor, Prime Minister of Sweden and UN Deputy Secretary-General, today’s sessions featured a deep dive into efforts at gender equality and inclusion in Asia, where one local business leader noted that companies that are not moving forward will be left behind. Such companies become less attractive to investors, have higher risk profiles, lose their competitive edge and have fewer interested markets. They also risk losing top talent as employees increasingly seek jobs aligned with their values.
The UN Global Compact launched a new LGBTIQ+ Standard Gap Analysis Tool that helps companies identify and improve their progress in promoting diversity and inclusion. Similarly, leaders of the Global Compact’s SDG Ambition Acceleratorshared examples of how it supports companies in integrating the SDGs into core management and strategies.
In parallel, the inaugural Young SDG Innovators Summit, showcased the extraordinary work of hundreds of talented young business professionals developing solutions to SDG-related challenges at companies around the world.
The day wrapped up with a panel on the International Day of Peace, in partnership with Peace Day LIVE with Sanda Ojiambo joining private sector leaders to underscore how peace and sustainable business are linked.
All today’s sessions will be posted to the UN Global Compact YouTube channel in the coming hours and days.