The program of the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit 2020 – the largest business event on sustainable development – for the first time included a special session of Russian business, which was initiated and organized by the UN Global Compact Network Russia. The Summit was dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the initiative and was held in the format of a 26-hour online marathon, which was attended by 20,000 participants from 180 countries.
The Summit became the largest inclusive forum bringing together business leaders committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “I am encouraged to see so many companies, of so many sizes and from so many sectors and countries, recognizing the urgent need for global unity and international cooperation. Our shared aim is to see businesses integrating the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact into their core strategy and operations, taking strong steps to support the SDGs, and reporting publicly on progress,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his opening remarks. The UN head was joined by the leaders of countries, including Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, President of Botswana Mokgweetsi Masisi, President of Colombia Ivan Duque Marquez, President of Costa Rica Carlos Alvarado Quesada and President of Ethiopia Sahle-Work Zewde.
Under the overall topic “Recover better, Recover stronger, Recover together” dozens of plenary and interactive thematic sessions, as well as presentations of new long-term projects and publications of the UNGC were held at the Summit.
In particular, the Sustainable Infrastructure for the Belt and Road Initiative to Accelerate the SDGs platform was presented. The platform can become one of the key international mechanisms facilitating the contribution of the business community to the expansion of sustainable infrastructure and investments in the framework of more than 100 tasks within the 2030 Agenda.
As a result of cooperation with DNV GL, the Global Compact presented the UN Global Compact 20th-Anniversary Progress Report: Uniting Business in the Decade of Action, which allows to analyze the progress made by the participants in the initiative to implement the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact and achieve the SDGs during 20 years of the Global Compact. Notwithstanding a high appraisal of this progress, the report notes that companies need to take major action to achieve the SDGs. While 84% of companies participating in the UN Global Compact take action on the SDGs, only 46% of them incorporate them into their core business and only 39% have science-based and well ambitious social and environmental goals.
Together with Russell Reynolds Associates, the UNGC also presented Leadership for the Decade of Action, a study based on interviews with business leaders who are integrating sustainability across strategy, operations and stakeholder engagement. This white paper makes clear what exactly can be learned from such business leaders in the field of sustainability, what it gives them in terms of the process of appointment (election) and the effectiveness of top managers and CEOs of companies. The results confirm the need for an urgent transformation of business approaches from short-term to long-term understanding of corporate prospects, which see sustainability as a top corporate priority both within the business and more broadly – within the ecosystem of the planet.
A basic set of best business practices indicators was also proposed by Introducing Business Benchmarks for the Decade of Action (the UN Global Compact in partnership with Accenture and SAP, SDG Ambition initiative) in order to empower the world's leading companies to integrate the SDGs into core business processes using information technologies.
The session of the UNGC Network Russia "Pivot Point: The new Perspectives for the SDGs", dedicated to rethinking the foundations and prospects of business strategies on sustainable development in the context of the turning point of the COVID pandemic, was held on June 16, 2020 with the participation of the Ministry of Economic Development and leaders of the UN Global Compact Network Russia – VEB.RF, En + Group, PhosAgro, Polymetal, TATNEFT, Severstal and RUSAL.
What are the main changes in the perception of the global agenda and the main lessons learned? How much clearer and stronger the understanding of the essential aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals, which have a direct relevance to corporate culture, has become? Which of the socially and environmentally oriented experiences of this difficult period is appropriate to adapt to everyday reality in the future? What are the new SDGs prospects for Russian responsible companies?
The pandemic and its consequences are a unique, visual and large-scale confirmation and an illustration of the significance and importance of a thoughtful, rational and safe attitude towards resources, people, the balance of ecology, economy and society, towards science and ethical assessment of the economy. This is a demonstration of global challenges significance for and influence on each person, on any of us, the speed of spread of this influence and interrelation (of everything and everyone – processes, people, phenomena, ecosystems, etc.), which is caused today by technical and digital progress in the world.
Considering a specific, as if laboratory, experimental example we saw the interdependence between economic, social and environmental global factors.
The pandemic has highlighted all the tiny aspects of the SDGs, and its consequences are aggravated by downturn in sustainable development and the achievement of the SDGs, such as Clean Water and sSanitation (SDG 6), Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8), No Poverty (SDG 1) ,Reduced Inequalities (SDG 10). The pandemic has shown how the prevalence and severity of these and other problems – poverty, health systems, education and lack of global collaboration – exacerbate crises.
The UN system and international partner organizations have outlined measures to address the consequences of the global recession and financial turmoil in 2020 Financing for Sustainable Development Report, which poses measures to tackle them, especially in the world's poorest countries. Its recommendations are based on collaborative research and analysis by the UN system, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank Group and over 60 UN agencies and international organizations.
In this and other documents and calls, the key message is that the response to the pandemic cannot be separated from the SDGs. On the contrary, it is the focus on achieving the SDGs that will allow us to firmly settle down to a course of tackling global risks.
The crisis has highlighted precisely the need for global joint action to meet basic human needs, to save our planet and build a more just and sustainable world. That is, in fact, for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
But the most difficult and crucial thing here is understanding the nature of the SDGs not only as greening the economy, but also as building a sustainable development economy. It is important not to place the SDGs on business periphery or in its communication strategy, not to use the SDGs as a showcase and a way to demonstrate its participation, but to make them a tool and to implement them in real corporate strategies for the long run.