Integrating the Sustainable Development Goals at the core of business

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15 March, 2019


Insights from the CEO


Geneva, 15 March 2019: The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were a prominent area of focus at GreenBiz 2019, one of North America’s key sustainable business conferences which took place the last week of February in Phoenix, Arizona. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) took an active role in proceedings throughout the event particularly when it came to advancing the conversation around the SDG agenda.

Peter Bakker, WBCSD President and CEO, took part in a high-level plenary discussion on integrating the SDGs into a business core strategy, sharing perspectives with Tim Mohin, CEO of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), and Heather Clancy, Greenbiz’s Editorial Director.

As part of discussions, Bakker underlined the clear business case for engaging with the SDGs pointing to opportunities around potentially historic new markets for sustainable and inclusive products as well as their capacity to drive enhanced risk management. He also highlighted the power of the SDGs to forge an enhanced social contract between business and the communities in which it operates, and SDG performance as an emerging enabler of cheaper access to capital.

The panel also explored emerging best practice in terms of SDG integration, touching on efforts by WBCSD members to prioritize key SDGs, set meaningful SDG targets and to report on progress in a transparent and robust fashion.

There was also discussion around the role of science-based targets in the context of the SDGs and how new research from the likes of the EAT Lancet Commission in the food space is helping to shape robust responses to key SDG challenges.

The panel also touched upon mounting stakeholder interest in this space and scrutiny of corporate performance, pointing in particular to the work of the World Benchmarking Alliance, which will be releasing the first of its SDG benchmarks in 2019.

It was also noted that while the SDGs represent a highly interconnected framework which should be considered holistically, there are some SDGs which are likely to come under enhanced focus in 2019 against the backdrop of wider UN events and efforts. In particular Peter Bakker and Tim Mohin highlighted SDG 2 (zero hunger) SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production) and SDG 13 (climate action).

In closing, Peter Bakker noted that business in North America seems much more engaged around the SDG agenda than it was just a few years ago and invited attendees to continue to engage with WBCSD to enhance SDG integration and collective impact moving forward.

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