Last week, around 500 business and civil society leaders from around the world met at the United Nations in New York to mark the UN Global Compact’s 15th anniversary. The discussions were broadly framed on the upcoming UN post-2015 global agenda for sustainable development. This agenda, which will include new global sustainable development goals, will be published in September.
The Global Compact continues to act as a crucial bridge between the business world and public policy makers. Last week’s summit, Business as a Force for Good, demonstrated this point, as private sector leaders were able to give their input for the formation of the upcoming sustainable development goals.
A portion of the dialogue at the conference also focused on an independent report prepared by DNV GL entitled Impact: Transforming Business, Changing the World. The report summarizes the accomplishments of the Global Compact over the past 15 years. It asserts that “Sustainability is now firmly on the global business agenda, but there is an urgent need to turn words into action”.
This point has become quite evident over the past several years. Awareness and understanding of sustainability and its place in business has undoubtedly expanded rapidly. However, the problem is not that no action has been taken. Corporations across the globe have integrated innovative sustainability policies and actions into their operations. Yet, the companies taking action are overwhelmingly of the Fortune 500 variety. What is now needed is a proliferation of this action to small and medium sized businesses and throughout global supply chains. The good news is that the hurdle has been lowered significantly by the larger enterprises that have pioneered corporate sustainability.
Today there are more resources to use and more expertise to draw on than ever before. Companies that are new to sustainability should take full advantage of this, while those that are experienced should continue to raise the bar.