How is the global sustainable development agenda and the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) influencing business strategies and practices today? Russian entrepreneurship still decides for itself in very different ways and with varying degrees of maturity how relevant this agenda is for business and how exactly it can or should be integrated into the usual commercial models. Realizing and unlocking new opportunities for economic growth and the formation of long-term strategies of existence in the context of sustainable development is one of the most important tasks for business today. The UN Global Compact Local Network’s session, which was held in Kazan on July 1, 2021 with the support of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Tatarstan and the Investment Development Agency of the Republic of Tatarstan, was devoted to the disclosure and discussion of the aspects that need to be taken into account and continued the series of regional discussions under the auspices of the UN Global Compact Network Russia. The session was held in a mixed (online and offline) format with the participation of almost 40 speakers (with connections from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tyumen, as well as from Switzerland, Hungary, Iraqi Kurdistan), who presented their expert opinions and illustrations on the main topics of the session.
The first thematic part of the session – “New Economy. The Global Agenda – Local Priorities” – was dedicated to the specific aspects of the global agenda and its local synchronization, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the context of operational activities and allowed to discuss how exactly business can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs, what are ESG strategies, how the requests of investors and banks are changing taking ESG into account, what is the economic efficiency of involvement in the sustainable development agenda, what are the features of current sustainability and ESG business strategies, and etc.
The results of the first part of the session confirmed the thesis in its preamble, stating that when talking about the social and environmental challenges of business, the focus of discussion is not so much CSR as unified sustainability and ESG strategies, defining a new business reality. Companies together with governments and civil society are more and more deeply comprehending the global sustainable development agenda, which is becoming the philosophy of business responsibility that is broader and more multifaceted than ever before.
Leading experts and business platforms in Russia are already quite unanimous: sustainable development strategies, commercial strategies and risk management strategies are inseparable, and business, under pressure from investors, consumers, customers and all stakeholders, must adapt to this new reality as soon as possible.
A business community of leaders - companies committed to the values of sustainable development - has formed in Russia. Many of them have launched a systematic review (of procedures, principles, technologies, standards, and etc.) at all levels, taking the values of sustainable development into account. There is a rethinking of and reassembling puzzles of production, sales and supplies, a search for investments and financing, of corporate communications and governance, human rights, labor relations and anti-corruption, innovative sustainable business models and external performance evaluation. The trend has also an impact on small and medium-sized businesses, and is growing rapidly at the level of startups. Many, if not the core part of, most promising and approved business ideas today (apart from digital ones) are solutions in the field of reducing carbon intensity, recycling plastic and other materials, cyclical and sharing economy, sustainable development of regions, inclusion, gender equality, food security, education, equal access, and etc. Such ideas are needed both by business and authorities, by consultants and experts, and by the market as a whole.
During the second part of the session – "Human rights, climate and the environment in the context of advanced corporate strategies" – the thematic sustainable development aspects of commercial strategies, which for a long time were (mostly) outside the key interests of business owners, investors and shareholders, were examined in more detail. Within these interests, there were mainly commercial, financial and investment aspects, production tasks, issues of building relationships, first of all, with those who can make the business even more financially successful, and so on.
Today, these interests merge not just with ideas, but with ecology and human rights business standards, becoming a single circulatory system with them, a single organism. Its immunity depends on how seriously and consciously the business is engaged in a kind of vaccination – against risks (viruses) in the field of climate, ecology (not only for itself, but also for society as a whole), risks in the field of human well-being, regardless of gender, age, race and status, against the risks of underestimating the role of ethical, humanitarian, environmental factors that provide today the viability of the business itself and the social license of its activities in the short term now.
The main topics of the second part of the session are the main environmental and climate risks for business and the ways of managing them, the Paris Climate Agreement and science-based climate goals of business, circular economy and its prospects, business and human rights, inclusion, diversity and gender balance in commercial strategies, corporate philanthropy in the context of the SDGs and sustainable development of territories.
According to the existing expertise of sustainable development leaders, including the one presented during the session, the regional business community of Russia can significantly accelerate its integration with the main business trend of the time. Together with national governments and civil society, business is at the center of the transition to a completely new development model, to a new economy of sustainable development. Sustainable development economy is an inclusive, resource-saving, supporting ecological and social systems, human-centered economy that ensures a decent future not only for present, but also future generations. Sustainable development is gradually becoming the main factor that can guarantee growth, efficiency and profitability of the business in the near future.
The session’s record is available at: https://youtu.be/WmCraN-Z3kg (in Russian)