New York (21 April 2016) - The Business and Sustainable Development Commission assumed a prominent role at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 21 April, which co-hosted with the UN Global Compact a high-level debate on Business and Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The event was held on the eve of the historic signing ceremony for the Paris Climate Agreement, underlining the strong links between sustainable development and climate.
The debate, which brought together leaders from business, politics and academia aimed to raise awareness, foster opportunities for partnerships and catalyse action around the SDGs, emphasising the critical role that business must play to achieve these goals by 2030.
The discussion, led by the Business Commission’s Programme Director, Jeremy Oppenheim, and Lise Kingo, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, also focused on the structure and narrative of the upcoming Business Commission report and how its work can have most impact.
Starting the conversation, Lise Kingo described the the UN Global Compact’s efforts to raise awareness and engage businesses across its local networks. Among their initiatives is the SDG Pioneer campaign, which identifies and champions local businesses working to support the SDGs.
Jeremy Oppenheim described the core aim of the Business Commission by speaking to the realities of the corporate boardroom, “articulating the prize for business and the risks if sustainable development is not achieved.” This prize, in short, is market transformation, but this will not materialise through incremental change alone, Jeremy cautioned.
Following the lead presentations, Ambassador Geir O. Pedersen, Permanent Representative of Norway to the UN, pointed to both regulation and incentives to “move business in the right direction,” underscoring the critical task ahead for the Business Commission. “If you don’t succeed, business won’t succeed.”
Other Commissioners at the event included Mads Nipper, Group President and CEO of Grundfos, and Peter Bakker, President and CEO, World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
Participants included CEO or C-suite representatives from Lafarge, IKEA, HP, Kellog, Novozymes, Aviva, Tata and Natura, and thought leaders such as Nick Stern, Jeffrey Sachs, Andrew Steer, Rachel Kyte, Rick Samans, and Naoko Ishii. Policy-makers from the UN and several developing and developed countries also attended the event, as well as representatives from the International Chamber of Commerce, the UN Foundation, and other organisations affiliated with the Commission.
Following the debate, for the first time ever, the UN General Assembly heads of state lunch was organised as a multi-stakeholder event. Jeremy Oppenheim and Peter Bakker, representing the Business Commission, guided by moderator, Al Jazeera journalist Ghida Fakhry, led a discussion on the role of the private sector to achieve sustainable development.