UN Global Compact Leaders Summit 2017. Key SDGs Challenges

UN Global Compact Leaders Summit took place in New York on 21 September 2017. It is one of the major regular events under the auspices of the initiative, which is traditionally occasioned with the UN General Assembly.  H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, chaired the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly. He pointed out 6 priority directions of the session, that are conflict prevention, migration, human right protection, sustainable development, climate change, and ensuring the equality. In line with this agenda, UN Global Compact Leaders Summit brought together international community of business leaders, civil society, academia and the United Nations – overall almost 800 participants from more than 70 countries.

Accelerating business actions to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris climate agreement and both local and global levels were declared to be the key Summit objectives. The Summit was aimed at conversation and elaboration of specific instruments, which would allow to challenge the status quo and to transform conventional approaches to making business in this regard.

To mobilize the global sustainability movement, Lise Kingo, the CEO and Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact, invited business-leaders to find options to make each and every of their employees an ambassador of SDGs.

Concluding the work of the Summit, she highlighted two key factors, which will facilitate the SDGs achievement; they are innovations in a broad sense of the word and transformation of business thinking for sustainable development.

“These are the key SDGs challenges. Business is about to enter the amazing future, and many people and companies realize its particularity today, that’s why we can see so many companies, committed to the Global Compact principles and moving towards the Sustainable Development Goals”, stated Ms. Kingo. “We are welcoming this new wave and we are glad that it is strong enough to promote the global agenda. Nevertheless, everyone should understand that now is the time to act!”.

Russian Global Compact participants, attending the Summit, are sharing their impressions.

Alexander Gorelik, Assistant Director General of Interstate Corporation of Development on cooperation with international organizations

Global Compact Leaders Summit was quite dynamic and gathered mostly highly involved audience. UN GC Office presented 2017 UN GC Progress Report «Business Solutions to Sustainable Development», «Blueprint for Business Leadership on the SDGs. A Principle-based Approach» and Reporting Tool. In addition, a group of business-innovators, so-called SDGs Pioneers, was presented to the participants. I suppose, we can state that evolution of a position and practice of the GC is visible, which is connected to the efforts made by the new team. Focus is made on corporate sustainability, where the stress is put on modern technologies and pragmatic business-models. Summit confirmed that attention to financial component of ‘world-improving’ concepts is increasing. An issue of functional financial products and solutions from a perspective of corporate citizenship is likely to be up front. Another recurring message is the topic of responsible finance (taking into account that several initiatives are launched, including recent Principles for Positive Impact Finance). Along with that go gender equality (for sure, from the business perspectives), education and healthcare (to reduce societal inequality), food security. One could argue that it is just corporate responsibility vocabulary (or slang) is changing. Nevertheless, we cannot help seeing other rationale in how GC is trying to involve business community. The cornerstone of the campaign is to clarify what are the optimal actions (based on your own positions and interests) to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The idea is to ‘translate’ SDGs to the private sector language, to make them clear and acceptable for business. Progress Report formulated the approach of advanced business-community: financial profit should not be generated at the expense of society and environment.

Alexander Plakida, Deputy Board Chairperson of CJSC "Alliance Consulting Investment Group" Group of Companies

 Global Compact events of such level are very interesting and traditionally well organized. Timing, discussion balance, program, logical blocks are immaculate. The content is vivid. Its key feature is that one can get acquainted with a lot of exciting cases. Not all of them are fully applicable in our reality, but mostly I would call them on the edge of applicability. One more advantage is motivation. Inspiring speakers, such as Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, who has as usually been charismatic and original, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who elicited applause by running a simulated discussion with the US President on Paris Climate Agreement. SDGs Pioneers were presented, and their five-minute speeches were not ordinary. It is a certain brief form of presenting very deep information, and it makes one wonder what and how to say in such circumstances. There is no doubt that Leaders Summit, as always, provided numerous discussion and networking opportunities, backstage talks. There probably was a lack of brainstorm, joint moderated discussion, focusing on such topics as strategy and financing of the UN GC and SDGs, space for a guided dialogue. However, there was enough networking. Moreover, it is clear that Russian participants were a team; I could feel a common touch, a team spirit. To sum up, I can state that there is an evident and supported by the colleagues difference in comparison to how business leaders perceived the topic of corporate responsibility even a decade ago: there was some doubt if it costs such efforts and if it is that closely related to key business objectives. For now, it is unquestionable.  The question is how exactly the development in this direction should go and attract new personnel, motivated and high-potential people.

Marina Gassiy, Deputy Director General - Director for Legal Support of SUE «Vodokanal of St. Petersburg»

The recently held Summit especially encouraged us by the depth and extent of the issues covered during its work. We indeed managed to discuss the most burning issues, which solution would highly influence social, economic, political and environmental well-being of population all over the world. Most noteworthy, the format chosen by the Summit organizers allowed to provide comfortable working conditions to all its participants with no exception, regardless their profession or practice areas. For me, being a head of legal department in one of the largest enterprises in the Northwestern region of Russia and a professional lawyer, it was crucial to find among the substantive issues those that would be connected with legislation, ecological law enforcement; and it did not turn out to be such a complicated task. Global Compact level of discussion is the level, which enables to compile practical experience of its participants in the provision of sustainable development regardless the area one required it from. On a practical level, I cannot deny the fact that the trends, marked by the participants of the Summit, which fully comply with the tendencies currently existing in Russia. First, it is commitment to involvement of business-users of natural resources in environmental conservation by receiving real economic benefits from such conservation. I would like to note that at a level of my organization there is currently being developed similar project, provisionally called ‘profitable ecology’. We sincerely hope for enforcement of its ideology is Russian legal regulation, and if successfully we will undoubtedly share our results to the international colleagues.   

Speakers of 2017 Leaders Summit
Leaders Summit 2017 Overview

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