New Commission Puts Business at the Centre of Sustainable Development

Davos, Switzerland (21 January 2016) – Businesses that join global efforts to end extreme poverty and protect the planet’s finite natural resources can reap great rewards and protect their long-term performance, a proposition that will be tested by a new commission launched today at the World Economic Forum.

The Business and Sustainable Development Commission will work over the next year to articulate and quantify the compelling economic case for businesses to engage in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including:

  • Significant economic rewards through new markets, investment opportunities and innovations, if the world tackles challenges including poverty, inequality and environmental stress.
  • Risks to business performance and stability, and increased fragmentation, resource competition and fragility, if the world fails to address these risks. 
  • The necessity to work with governments, international organisations and civil society in order to build a future where businesses can perform, with inclusive, sustainable growth and widespread job creation

The Business Commission brings together international leaders from business, labour, financial institutions and civil society. They will present a comprehensive report in January 2017, outlining new business and financial models, as well as market opportunities for companies who are invested in sustainable approaches.

Since 2000, the world has seen extreme poverty more than halved.  Business, which is responsible for 60% of GDP, 80% of inward capital flows and 90% of jobs in developing countries, has been central to this success story, but can play a greater and more constructive role in realising growth and development opportunities.

“A massive prize awaits business if it successfully ushers in an era of shared prosperity and increased sustainability,” said Commission Chair Mark Malloch-Brown. “Governments and international organisations alone cannot build the future we need. Business is the key to accelerating the transition.”

“There is no business case for enduring poverty. We have an opportunity to unlock trillions of dollars through new markets, investments and innovation, but to do so, we must challenge our current practices and address poverty, inequality and environmental challenges. Every business will benefit from operating in a more equitable, resilient world if we achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Unilever CEO Paul Polman.

“There is a case to be made that vast economic incentives exist for changing business as usual,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation. “Business can create the fair wage jobs to propel societal development that leaves no one behind.  Business innovation can deliver the technological advancements needed to achieve an efficient, net zero emissions economy.  And business and society could both win, if more businesses recognise this and act upon it.”

The Business Commission has been created to do five things:

  • First, to decode the SDGs and show why it makes sense for business to engage on sustainable development at a far more strategic level than it has to date.
  • Second, to show how new business models can align profitability with social purpose.
  • Fourth, to show how business, government, and society can work effectively together to build the partnerships needed for SDG delivery.
  • Fifth, to quantify the efficiency gains in achieving sustainable development if business is fully aligned with the SDGs.The Commission will conduct foundational research, and engage in fact-finding dialogue with a diverse cross-section of key stakeholders, including business leaders, investors, civil society representatives, social entrepreneurs and academic experts. 

The initiative aims to explore current and future disruptive business models, understanding what they mean for sustainable development; and to map out new financing mechanisms the world will need to reach the SDGs. It will investigate changes in core business operations and behaviours that go far beyond traditional corporate social responsibility and voluntary partnerships.

The UN Foundation, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Overseas Development Institute and The B Team are supporting the effort, to help mobilise the business community and the next generation of entrepreneurs, to support achievement of the global goals by 2030.

The Business Commission receives funding support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the governments of Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Mark Malloch-Brown is the Chair of the Commission, while Jeremy Oppenheim, who led the development of the influential New Climate Economy report, serves as Programme Director. 

Commission members:
In addition to co-founders Mark Malloch-Brown and Paul Polman, members of the Commission include:  Laura Alfaro, Professor, Harvard Business School, Peter Bakker, President, World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD); Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC); Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom; John Danilovich, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC); Hendrik du Toit, CEO, Investec Asset Management; John Fallon, CEO of Pearson PLC; Ken Frazier, CEO of Merck & Co.; Mo Ibrahim, Founder of Celtel and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation; Donald Kaberuka, President, African Development Bank; Sam Mostyn, President of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID);  Roberto Oliveira de Lima, CEO of Natura; Dr. Amy Jadesimi, Managing Director and CEO of Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base (LADOL); Lise Kingo, Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact; Arif Naqvi, Founder and Group Chief Executive of The Abraaj Group; Vineet Rai, Co-Founder and Chairman, Intellecap and Gavin Wilson, CEO of IFC Asset Management Company LLC.