Heads of State join CEOs and UN Chiefs in calling for accelerated corporate action on sustainability to recover better from COVID-19
More than 20,000 business leaders joined Heads of State, civil society leaders and UN Chiefs to call for increased corporate ambition to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and net-zero by 2050 during extraordinary Leaders Summit.
UNITED NATIONS, New York, 16 June 2021 – UN Secretary-General António Guterres was joined by Heads of State and dozens of Chief Executive Officers and UN Chiefs at this year’s United Nations Global Compact Leaders Summit to address the converging crises of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, worsening social and economic inequality and unchecked corruption in order to offer a roadmap for a sustainable recovery.
Opening the Summit, UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Chair of the Board of the UN Global Compact remarked: “Only through global cooperation at an unprecedented level can we build back from the pandemic, get on track to achieve the SDGs and avert the worst impacts of climate change. Business has a central role to play. Your efforts and leadership can lift the entire world. But you need to embrace transformational change. In every sector, a much deeper, faster and more ambitious response is needed to unleash the social and economic changes demanded by the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change.”
Sanda Ojiambo, CEO & Executive Director of the UN Global Compact noted that: “Events in the extraordinary year since our last Leaders Summit have proven how fragile our systems and how unequal our societies really are. Amidst a pandemic, an economic crisis and a climate emergency, business as usual is no longer an option. Instead, this is a time for ambition.”
Sanda Ojiambo also announced that Expo 2020 Dubai and the United Nations Global Compact are joining forces to hold a Sustainable Development Goals Business Forum during Expo’s Global Goals Week (16-22 January 2022), to spur further action towards a sustainable and inclusive future.
Marking the first anniversary of the Race to Zero campaign, Alok Sharma, President for COP 26, issued a strong call to action to business leaders to accelerate the transition to a net-zero world by 2050: “Race to Zero is central to our COP26 Presidency. We are urging companies and investors, cities and regions, organisations of all kinds, to sign-up. To play their part in keeping 1.5 degrees within reach. And to make clear to governments that climate action will be welcomed and not resisted across the economy.”
Over 26 hours of continuous virtual programming — including more than 100 global, regional and local sessions – leaders from business, civil society, governments and the UN reflected on the importance of collaboration and public-private partnerships and pledged to increase their ambition to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and accelerate climate action.
In a series of sessions under the banner “Elevating Ambition for Corporate Action” the UN Global Compact’s new strategic plan for the next three years was launched to galvanize bold, rapid progress on sustainability through business transformation. It calls for enhanced corporate accountability, including cutting carbon emissions in line with a pathway to net-zero by mid century and envisions regionally-balanced growth of the UN Global Compact network. It also enables greater flexibility for business action at the local level, with companies adapting to each country’s unique context as well as seeking to harness the energy of small and medium-sized enterprises as the foundation of national and local economies. And it promotes stronger business engagement with UN partners, including partnerships to finance the 2030 Agenda.
It was also announced that the UN Global Compact SDG Ambition Accelerator programme will now be open to further participants to set and meet bold, tangible targets for sustainability. Paul Polman, Vice Chair of the UN Global Compact presented on the results of the UN Global Compact 2021 survey of companies and CEOs, in partnership with Accenture, which revealed 79 per cent of CEOs believe the pandemic has highlighted the need to transition to more sustainable business models.
During the plenary session “Financing the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement” which explored how linking “ESG” to meaningful corporate sustainability action will benefit investors and companies, the UN Global Compact CFO Taskforce committed to key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure their progress towards the implementation of the CFO Principles on Integrated SDG Investment and Finance.
Further corporate action was called for during the CEO panel discussion “Accelerating Progress Towards Setting Science Based Targets” which looked at the key role the private sector has to play in sending strong market signals and scaling innovative solutions to present concrete, realistic plans towards a zero-carbon economy while advocating for a green recovery. The session built on the findings of a recent report from the Science Based Targets initiative, the UN Global Compact and CDP which showed that none of the Group of Seven countries’ main stock indexes are aligned with goals to limit global temperature rises to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius.
The session “The Road to Transformational Governance: Launching the Business Framework for Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions” discussed how to accelerate action on the “G” in ESG to strengthen business culture, ethics and performance and support public institutions, laws and systems building on the recently released SDG 16 Business Framework: A Blueprint for Transformational Governance”.
The high-level session entitled “Uniting Against Corruption: Launch of the UN Global Compact Anti-Corruption Collective Action Playbook” looked at how companies and other stakeholders from civil society and the public sector can come together to tackle corruption through a six step approach drawn from the collective action methodology.
The UN Global Compact Leaders Summit also recognised the work of ten “2021 SDG Pioneers” who are doing an exceptional job to advance the Global Goals through the implementation of the UN Global Compact Ten Principles on human rights, environment, labor and anti-corruption.
Government speakers who participated in this year’s event included President of the Republic of Singapore, Mdm Halimah Yacob; Prime Minister of Jamaica, H.E. Andrew Holness; Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea, H.E. Kim Boo-kyum; Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission; Mr. Erick Thohir, Minister of State Owned Enterprises, Indonesia; Ms. Marina Sereni, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Italy; Mr. Ville Skinnari, Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade, Finland; Niels Annen, Minister of State, Federal Foreign Office, Germany; Ms. Birgitta Tazelaar, Vice Minister for International Cooperation, Netherlands; Ms. Jarosińska-Jedynak, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy, Poland; Ms. Anna Karin Eneström, Permanent Representative, Mission of Sweden to the UN; Dr. Wissanu Krea-Ngam, Deputy Prime Minister, Thailand; Mr. Soltan bin Saad Al-Muraikhi, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, State of Qatar; Howard Boyd, Chair, UK Environment Agency.
Other speakers included UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J. Mohammed; Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UNEP; Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Sharan Burrow, Secretary-General of the International Trade Union Confederation and Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation as well as more than two dozen leading CEOs including Julie Sweet, CEO, Accenture; Roberto Marques, CEO, Natura &Co; Jean-Pascal Tricoire, CEO, Schneider Electric; Francesco Starace, CEO, Enel; Paul Polman, Chair of Imagine and Vice Board Chair of the UN Global Compact; Jane Karuku, Managing Director and CEO, East African Breweries Ltd and Olukayode Pitan, CEO, Bank of Industry, Nigeria.
Notes to Editors
About the United Nations Global Compact
As a special initiative of the UN Secretary-General, the United Nations Global Compact is a call to companies everywhere to align their operations and strategies with Ten Principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. Our ambition is to accelerate and scale the global collective impact of business by upholding the Ten Principles and delivering the Sustainable Development Goals through accountable companies and ecosystems that enable change. With more than 12,000 companies and 3,000 non-business signatories based in over 160 countries, and 69 Local Networks, the UN Global Compact is the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative — one Global Compact uniting business for a better world. For more information, follow @globalcompact on social media and visit our website at unglobalcompact.org
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