The United Nations has played a pivotal role in addressing sustainable development ever since it defined the term in the Brundtland Report back in 1987. We should give them credit: the UN has been good at engaging all sectors of society, including business, on sustainability. That more companies continue to sign up for the UN Global Compact standards for responsible behavior speaks to the UN’s ability to reach the private sector.
We’re going to help the UN take that engagement one step further.
The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), with 12 Thematic Groups, mobilizes experts from academia, civil society and the private sector to drive sustainable-development problem-solving at local, national and global scales.
The WBCSD has an important role in the SDSN. I’m serving as co-chair of the Role of Business Thematic Group with Klaus Leisinger, Chair of the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development. Our charge is to identify common solutions, highlight best practices and provide insights in the role of Business, to inform the high-level UN panel that is developing the Sustainable Development Goals – the successor to the Millennium Development Goals process which will end in 2015.
In January, we released a background paper on our priorities and our three-year work agenda: “Business: The key challenges to 2030/2050.” In it, we’ve mapped out the challenges that must be solved quickly and outlined the action agenda for the Thematic Group. We know sustainability must be integrated into core business operations and strategies. And we know that externalities such as ecosystem services must be built into prices. What we need to do is make clear the actionable next steps that businesses and policy-makers must take.
Business, as the provider of innovation, management skills and financial resources, will play a role in almost all of the 12 Thematic Groups. So we’ll also be consulting across all the Working Groups.
The SDSN also dovetails with the WBCSD’s own work, as we transform Vision 2050 into a framework for action that we expect will drive companies to implement business solutions, at a broad enough scale to make a difference.
Business acts boldly and successfully when there is certainty, data and timelines. So we need to provide quantifiable, actionable and time-bound solutions for businesses in order to drive action. And that’s what we’ll do, through our involvement with the UN SDSN and through WBCSD’s own work programs. That’s my promise to you.