August 24, 2020

UN’s Sustainable Development Goals have never been more important

By Ida Bratting Kongsted, CEO of The Danish Management Society (VL) and Christian Honoré, Partner at 3B IMPACT

In 2019, Danish Management Society (VL), Danish Industry Foundation and 3B IMPACT launched the first app in the world with the sole purpose of inspiring corporate executives to integrate the United Nations (UN) 17 Sustainable Development Goals into their businesses. The Global Goals Business Navigator App was recently updated and focuses even more on business’s corporate responsibility work.

You may think it’s irrelevant or even unreasonable to be talking about corporate’s social responsibility, the environment and a better world in a critical situation like the one we are facing around the COVID-19 pandemic. A time where lockdowns have taken a serious toll on the global economy, a time where stock markets are bleeding and we are struggling with consequences of an economic downturn involving declining economic growth, bankruptcies and businesses in bad economic shape. But, in fact, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals have never been more relevant. Why? Because we are not just facing a phase of rebuilding and reconstructing the world as it used to be pre-COVID-19, we are facing something far more complex. We have a genuine opportunity to build a more resilient, global system that is better than the previous one struck so hard by COVID-19.

The pandemic has provided insight into how closely the world connects across borders and societies. So close, that “(…) someone coughing or sneezing in the Hubei Province in China can trigger an avalanche in Milan and Italy (…)” says Lisbeth Knudsen, Editor-in-Chief at the Danish media Mandag Morgen and Altinget. The challenges ahead of us are joint challenges demanding joint solutions, and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals represent 17 glowing lights for every CEO who wants to contribute to and influence what happens tomorrow. In this process, the Global Goals Business Navigator App could become a small piece in a grand puzzle to create a world that must change for the better. One that is more resilient towards global challenges like pandemics and related challenges such as climate change. Now is the time for all of us to decide what our global system should look like to better prevent and withstand global crises situations. To do that, the CEOs of the world will need some inspiration.

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven the importance of global cooperation across borders and across businesses and industries. It has also proven the importance of delivering the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to create a solid foundation and a safe road ahead of the global population. As an example, reaching Goal 3 on ensuring good health would significantly strengthen the healthcare sector of all countries and their capacity to act rapidly in situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, and it would improve risk evaluations and efficiency in handling national and global health risks.

The COVID-19 pandemic transformed a global health crisis into a financial crisis, just like it could happen in other areas relevant to reaching the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, such as our global climate (Goal 13). According to an analysis by McKinsey, increasing consequences of the global climate crisis, like flooding and droughts, could cause an economic shockwave. One that compares with what we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic and that includes a global supply chain melt down, drastic changes in consumer behaviour, and examples as we have seen during the pandemic in the US where most of their meat production was shutting down.

The interest from businesses in becoming frontrunners and taking on more social and environmental responsibility is picking up. Analysis by Lloyds Bank concludes how Hurricane Sandy resulted in a 30% loss on insurances in New York in 2012. Another study is showing that the number of properties in the UK at risk of being negatively affected by floods will double by 2035.

The discussion around business’s corporate responsibility is obviously not new. It’s safe to say that most CEOs are now aware that modern consumers are largely choosing products from corporates they consider as displaying a responsible behaviour while punishing the rest. The same goes for employees looking for purposeful work, while investors are becoming increasingly interested in investment opportunities with a low ESG (environmental, social, governance) risk.

All of this is representing several challenges for corporates, but it also represents new opportunities. For those who understand the need to navigate in this new world, the reward is great and the competitive advantages are many.

(This op-ed was published in Danish in Børsen 04.08.2020.)

Photo by Anastasiia Chepinska on Unsplash

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