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Better Business, Better World

May 1, 2017

In January of this year, the Business & Sustainable Development Commission, a group of 35 leaders from business, finance, civil society, labor and international organizations, issued a report titled Better Business, Better World under the auspices of the UN Foundation. Its goal was to map the economic benefits available to business if the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are achieved and to describe how business can contribute to delivering these goals.

The report argues that the business case for sustainable development is strong already: it opens up new opportunities and big efficiency gains; it drives innovation; and it enhances reputations. With a reputation for sustainability, companies attract and retain employees, consumers, business-to-business customers and investors, and they secure their license to operate.

According to the report, achieving the 17 SDGs arguably will create a world that is comprehensively sustainable: socially fair; environmentally secure; economically prosperous; inclusive; and more predictable.

The format of this blog won’t allow a comprehensive summary of the recommendations contained in this lengthy report, but the Commission does advance six actions that it feels businesses can take to assert leadership in sustainable development. They are:

  • Build support for the SDGs as the right growth strategy in your companies and across the business community.
  • Incorporate the SDGs into your company’s strategy.
  • Drive the transformation to sustainable markets with sector peers.
  • Work with policy-makers to pay the true cost of natural and human resources.
  • Push for a financial system oriented towards longer-term sustainable investment.
  • Rebuild the social contract.

The Commission asserts that big business needs to regain the public trust and the license to operate. And, it anticipates greater pressure on business to deliver sustainable outcomes. From the report:

  • We anticipate much greater pressure on business to prove itself a responsible social actor, creating good, properly paid jobs in its supply chains as well as in its factories and offices. Business will need to demonstrate that it pays taxes where revenue is earned; abides by environmental and labor standards; respects the national policies and customs where it operates; integrates social and environmental factors in its investment decisions; and, above all, engages as a partner with others to build an economy that is more just.
  • We must have the courage to strike out in new directions and embrace an economic model which is not only low-carbon and environmentally sustainable, but also turns poverty, inequality and lack of financial access into new market opportunities for smart, progressive, profit-oriented companies. These complex challenges need the full and combined attention of government, civil society and business. Otherwise, there is no chance of solving them.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are:

  • No Poverty
  • Zero Hunger
  • Good Health & Well-being
  • Quality Education
  • Gender Equality
  • Clean Water & Sanitation
  • Affordable & Clean Energy
  • Decent Work & Economic Growth
  • Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • Reduced Inequalities
  • Sustainable Cities & Communities
  • Responsible Consumption & Production
  • Climate Action
  • Life Below Water
  • Life On Land
  • Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions
  • Partnerships for the Goals

If you have a question or comment, please follow me on Twitter at @timmcclimon and start a conversation there. Thanks for reading and sharing this blog posting with friends and colleagues.  


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Welcome to CSR Now!, a weekly blog designed to get at what’s happening in Corporate Social Responsibility today – from the point of view of a corporate practitioner.



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