Three practical Action Priorities that will help businesses unlock sustainable transformation at scale along value chains

Throughout the months leading up to Stockholm +50, WBCSD collaborated with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and the Stockholm+50 Secretariat in driving transformations in six global value chains following a multi stakeholder approach.

Published: 24 Jun 2022
Author: Clea Kaske-Kuck, Director, Policy, Advocacy and Member Mobilization
Type: Insight

Earlier this month, during the Stockholm +50 UN Meeting, Ambassador Johanna Lissinger Peitz reflected upon WBCSD’s Stockholm Action Agenda and said: “The Stockholm Action Agenda outlines a clear and actionable path for businesses and governments to work together towards green and sustainable value chain transformation”. At that time, Stockholm welcomed the world back after 50 years since the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972. Stepping out of the usual negotiating mode of UN meetings and especially important in today’s turbulent times, Stockholm +50 provided an opportunity for the 3000 delegates to pause, reflect upon the last 50 years and more importantly, engage in discussions to accelerate action towards a healthy planet for all.

Fifty years ago, world leaders came together to set the foundation for international cooperation on environment and sustainability, with governments promising to work together to stop environmental degradation, promote human development and ensure a livable planet for future generations. This year, the outcome statement from Sweden and Kenya (the co-hosts of the meeting) called for reinforcement and reinvigoration of the multilateral system, amongst nine other recommendations.  

The diversity of stakeholders engaged in the pre-meeting deliberations and present in Stockholm created the opportunity to build trust in the multilateral process and between different stakeholder groups, from youth to Indigenous communities, businesses, and governments.

Business engagement

Over four months, more than 70 stakeholders across 34 businesses and organizations across the value chains – in electronics; mobility; built environment; fashion and textiles; travel and tourism; and global food systems – worked to identify roadblocks to scale sustainability in six value chains rapidly.

The objective was to uncover mechanisms to facilitate an inclusive market-based sustainability transformation. This effort was based on evidence from various initiatives, collaborations, and partnerships that businesses, NGOs, and governments have worked on for over a decade.

The three practical Action Priorities 

The ‘Stockholm Action Agenda: Transforming Global Value Chains’ proposes three practical Action Priorities that provide the necessary structural unlock and impetus for wholesale business-driven value chain transformation. They are, in turn, underpinned by a proposal to transform a critical enabling environment – the global financial system itself: 

  • A Global Corporate Accountability and Transparency Mechanism – to track business contributions to climate, nature and pollution targets.
  • A Global Circularity Protocol – to remove common roadblocks for businesses and SMEs to scale circular business models.
  • A Global Sustainability Skills for Action Initiative – to help the business and financial community build capacity to speed up the sustainability transformation across multiple markets. 

Peter Bakker, Dominic Waughray and Måns Nilsson, Executive Director of SEI, launched the Stockholm Action Agenda: Transforming Global Value Chains at Stockholm +50 on the opening day of Stockholm +50 (2 June) with a live-streamed event and a full room of in-person attendees in the Conference Centre.

See the IISD coverage of the launch and also the specific reference to WBCSD’s work in Stockholm, in particular the Global Circularity Protocol, by the German Environmental Minister Steffi Lemke calling for a rapid transformation of the economy

Dominic Waughray, in his capacity as a member of Inger’s Advisory Group for Stocholm+50, officially presented the Stockholm Action Agenda to the government representatives attending Stockholm+50 on a panel at the Formal Leadership Dialogue Plenary, and in additional side events with the heads of Global Environment Facility (GEF), UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP), but also at the UN Science-Policy-Business Forum and other fora. 

Taking the Stockholm Action Agenda forward

We can only transform by collaborating with companies and partners to drive change within and across value chains and the systems in which we all operate. The levers that the Stockholm Action Agenda has identified and the three action priorities will be instrumental in helping drive faster action. It has yielded practical suggestions for designing and delivering business-informed international mechanisms beyond industry coalitions.

Each of these proposals is laser-focused on practical ways to improve transparency and accountability, remove roadblocks, create level playing fields, build capacity and drive rapid, scaled sustainability transformations across and within global value chains and the broader systems within which business operates up to 2030, and in the decades that follow. 

Radical collaboration and accountability will be essential for this transformation to be effective.

With critical international milestones such as COP27, UNGA 2023, COP28 and UNEA 24 profiling on the horizon, WBCSD, together with SEI, look forward to furthering engagement with the hosts of the conference, other governments, the United Nations family, foundations, the wider business community, and other critical stakeholders, to explore how these practical innovations arising could be taken forward.

Some of the leaders’ statements at Stockholm, excerpt from IISD

Prime Minister Andersson said we are at a crossroads. Listing the many threats to our environment, she said our first step should be living up to existing commitments and urged political leadership and accelerated action.

President Kenyatta said Stockholm+50 provides an opportunity to “pause” to take stock of progress since 1972 and reflect on how to make progress in the future. Noting the challenges faced by developing countries, he urged partners to honor commitments to double climate finance.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged everyone to “end our suicidal war against nature” since we know what to do and have the tools. He proposed investing in renewable energy and nature-based solutions and moving beyond gross domestic product (GDP) to measure wellbeing.

Abdulla Shahid, President of the United Nations General Assembly, recalled that the outcomes of the 1972 Stockholm Conference have provided a template for every environmental treaty and continue to inspire new generations of activists and policymakers.

Collen Vixen Kelapile, President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), highlighted the challenge of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inger Andersen, Secretary-General of Stockholm+50 and Executive Director, UNEP, recalled the exhortations of Olof Palme, Indira Gandhi, and Jomo Kenyatta and stated that we have not been able to do everything they invited the world to do when they addressed the 1972 Conference. She called for a paradigm shift where youth, the most vulnerable, and Indigenous Peoples are regarded as more important than the wealthy.

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