I would like to share some impressions on the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit which took place in New York City at the end of June. The central theme of the meeting, Acting Responsibly and Finding Opportunities, was very fitting during this first year of implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set for 2030. It highlighted the role of partnerships with and among businesses at the centre of attaining the SDGs and showed the need for all to be proactive, lead and collaborate.
But, is 15 years enough time? This was one of the questions raised — the answer is no. But, much can be done through innovation, measuring impact, and continued growth in the ranks so that more businesses come to the table as partners towards reaching the SDGs. One of the lessons learned from the assessment of the prior development goals is that by making sustainability part of everything businesses do, we will create a pathway for a sustainable and inclusive global economy.
For some business leaders at the summit, it was very helpful to hear the concrete pathways shared by the 10 Local Pioneers featured at the Leaders Summit. Here are some of their stories:
- Kerry Adler from Canada explained that by helping eliminate energy poverty with accessible renewable solutions, the market becomes primed to make renewables the first choice when it comes to investment decisions about energy use.
- Farzana Chowdhury has seen first-hand how women in Bangladesh are still deprived of their basic rights and are subject to discrimination in many areas of their lives. Her company has developed a number of schemes and services tailored to women.
- Xiaohui Liang has been working in China to advance human rights. He is currently working with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to create China’s first responsible business conduct platform. This serves as a centre for knowledge, practice and remedy on human rights for Chinese businesses.
- With a background in mechanical engineering, and as a mother of three, Zubaida has aligned maternal health products with India’s commitment to accelerate action along the entire reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health continuum.
- Sonia Consiglio Favaretto has spent more than a decade working to enable sustainable and transparent capital markets in Brazil. She has led on full integration of the SDGs into the products and services. The impact of this work can be seen in the number of listings available for investment that will report on the SDGs
- Besides his role in Helvetic Group, Patrick Ngowi sits as a director or member of a wide variety of global and local institutions including the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation and Tanzania National Business Council. Through solar energy projects, Patrick and his companies have directly employed 250 people, and an additional 1,000+ people indirectly throughout East Africa.
What I found most inspiring was the vision of these pioneers to support the agenda of world development by aligning its practices and policies to the SDGs. The underlying message for all: you can do this too!
In hearing this message, I couldn’t help but draw the parallel to the bold and inspiring step taken by the ECLT Members who in 2014 signed a Pledge of Commitment to align their own policies and practices with the common vision of elimination of child labour in tobacco growing. They continue to make steady progress through their own agricultural labour programmes addressing many of the SDGs.
I walked away with the certainty that the ECLT Foundation is on the right path, knowing that the opportunities to support the core principles of the UNGC, support global issue initiatives, and connect with local networks in the countries where we work are ripe for us. This will help the fuondation carry out its mission: work for the progressive elimination of all forms of child labour in tobacco growing communities in cooperation with its members and the global community and in alignment with the local public and private stakeholders concerned with the realization of children’s rights.