Making global goals local business – what does it take?

Published: 25 June 2016

Jenny Fredy, Senior Analyst at Global Child Forum, argues that for business to take on the global goals will require that businesses act responsibly, by incorporating the UN Global Compact Principles, as well as by identifying the opportunities that the new agenda provides. However, perhaps more than anything, what's needed is a new mind-set to drive new sustainable solutions and business models.

Global Child Forum recently took part in the UN Global Compact Leaders’ Summit in New York. Together with more than 600 business leaders and delegates from 75 countries, we discussed the role of responsible business in realising the Sustainable Development Goals. From the inspiring opening of the Summit in the General Assembly Hall, including a visionary remark by the UN Secretary General, to the very concrete “opportunity break-out sessions”, zeroing in on the business models, products, services and partnerships of tomorrow, the Summit focused on the opportunities that the new agenda offers for business. Central to this discussion was the question, how can today’s risks be transformed into opportunities?

One of the opening speakers was the inspiring businesswoman, Ms Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Founder and Executive Director of the company soleRebels. She started her own business in Ethiopia in 2005 and the company is now one of Africa’s fastest growing footwear brands. Key to being a successful business, she stressed, is her responsibility as an employer in terms of paying fair salaries in order to enable women to join the workforce and making sure the conditions are attractive to female workers juggling home and work. It was great to hear her highlighting the opportunity for companies to contribute to children’s rights, wellbeing and development by establishing child care facilities at their premises.

There was indeed a lot of enthusiasm in the room during the two-day Summit. The UN Global Compact is dedicated to supporting the business community and its members on this journey, on the road ahead to 2030. They launched a new campaign Making Global Goals Local Business, which will run over the next five years. At the Summit, the ED of Global Compact, Ms Lise Kingo, inaugurated the first class of SDG Pioneers- 10 Local SDG Pioneers with the goal of inspiring more individuals and companies around the world to follow their lead.

At the Summit, in addition to the SDG Pioneers, the findings from the UN Global Compact and Accenture Strategy CEO Study, were presented. The study interviewed more than 1000 CEOs from over 100 countries. This year’s study focused on the Agenda 2030 and the opportunities it provides for business. Some of the positive findings – 87% of CEOs believe that the SDGs provide an opportunity to rethink approaches to sustainable value creation. An illustrative infographic of the findings can be found here.

To answer the initial question of what does it take – it was clear from the Summit that it takes business that act responsibly, by incorporating the UN Global Compact Principles, as well as business identifying the opportunities that the new agenda provides. However, what is also evident is that a new mind-set is required to drive new sustainable solutions and business models. For example, one of the largest risks we face today is of global food shortage – however, this also can provide opportunities for companies that can develop sustainable and smart farming and food production. At Global Child Forum, we stand ready to partner with business that are ready to take steps to address children’s rights as part of their sustainability work, in their business practices, through their partnerships and reporting.

Photo Credit: Zef Nikolla/ UN Global Compact

Author

Jenny Fredby

Senior Analyst and Partnership Lead
Global Child Forum

As Senior Analyst, Jenny leads our strategic intelligence work, including the analysis of developments within our field, children’s rights and business. She has an extensive background in international development work, working within government agencies, international organisations and research centres, such as WaterAid, the Nordic Africa Institute, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the Centre for Environment and Development Studies. Jenny holds a Licentiate Degree from Stockholm University. She joined Global Child Forum in October 2015.

Resources

The UN Global Compact is a call to companies to align strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and take actions that advance societal goals. Read more about how companies can take action for a more sustainable future.