New global commission puts business at heart of sustainable development

The Global Commission on Business and Sustainable Development – co-founded by Unilever CEO Paul Polman – was launched today at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Created by Paul and former UN Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch-Brown, the Commission of business, labour and civil society leaders aims to encourage businesses to take the lead in poverty reduction and sustainable development. It will work over the next year to articulate and quantify the compelling economic case for businesses to engage in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals. This includes:

  • Significant economic rewards – through new markets, investment opportunities and innovations – if the world tackles the challenges of poverty, inequality and environmental stress
  • Risks to business performance and stability, and increased fragmentation, resource competition and fragility, if the world fails to address these risks
  • The necessity to work with governments, international organisations and civil society in order to build a future where businesses can perform – with inclusive, sustainable growth and widespread job creation.

The Commission will present a report in a year’s time outlining new business and financial models, as well as market opportunities for companies who are investing in sustainable approaches.

Paul says: “There is no business case for enduring poverty. We have an opportunity to unlock trillions of dollars through new markets, investments and innovation. But to do so, we must challenge our current practices and address poverty, inequality and environmental challenges. Every business will benefit from operating in a more equitable, resilient world if we achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Business is key to accelerating transition

Since 2000, the world has seen extreme poverty more than halved. Business – which provides 60% of GDP, 80% of inward capital flows and 90% of jobs in developing countries – has been central to this success story, but can play a greater and more constructive role in realising growth and development opportunities.

The initiative aims to explore current and future disruptive business models – understanding what they mean for sustainable development – and map out the new financing mechanisms the world will need to reach the SDGs. It will investigate changes in core business operations and behaviours that go far beyond traditional corporate social responsibility and voluntary partnerships.

As Mark Malloch-Brown explains: “A massive prize awaits business if it successfully ushers in an era of shared prosperity and increased sustainability. Governments and international organisations alone cannot build the future we need. Business is the key to accelerating the transition.”

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