Companies have been called upon to integrate the UN Sustainable Development Goals into their strategies if they want a “world that is comprehensibly sustainable”.
The call comes from the Business and Sustainable Development Commission in a new report, which also claims the goals could create $12 trillion worth of economic opportunities and up to 380 million jobs if they are integrated into business models.
The commission’s report, Better Business, Better World, has the UN’s 17 development goals at its core but recommends six actions for companies to take now.
“This report is a call to action to business leaders,” said Mark Malloch-Brown, chair of the commission, co-founder and former UN deputy secretary general. “We are on the edge and business as usual will drive more political opposition and land us with an economy that simply doesn’t work for enough people. We have to switch tracks to a business model that works for a new kind of inclusive growth.”
The report said that its research showed the goals offer a “compelling growth strategy” for business. The £12 trillion in opportunities will come from four main sectors, or “hotspots”: energy; cities; food and agriculture; and health and wellbeing.
It also added that “the global goals really need business: unless private companies seize the market opportunities they open up and advance progress on the whole Global Goals package, the abundance they offer won’t materialise.”
Among the recommendations to corporate leaders, the report said: “Build support for the global goals as the right growth strategy in your companies and across the business community. The more business leaders who understand the business case for the global goals, the faster progress will be towards better business in a better world.”
Other recommendations include: applying the global goals to all aspects of strategy; driving the transformation of markets with sector peers; paying the true cost of natural and human resources; pushing for a financial system driven by long-term investment; and lastly, rebuilding trust in business “by working with governments, consumers, workers and civil society to achieve the whole range of Global Goals, and adopting responsible, open policy advocacy”.
The report says companies face a stark choice: they could continue their “shuffle” towards sustainability, or delay their “shift” because of perceived advantages in the status quo.
“But neither option has a long-term future,” the report adds. “The environmental and climate science is clear: so are the growing costs of inaction. People and most governments want faster progress.
“Delaying a better world is wrong, and decent board members, employees, consumers and investors want to do the right thing. And if progress is too slow, there may be no viable world to do business in.”