Global CEOs sign on to new UN Goals at United Nations Private Sector Forum

Sep 26, 2015

NEW YORK – More than 300 CEOs, Heads of State, UN and civil society leaders today attended the United Nations Private Sector Forum to discuss the role of business in implementing the world's 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At the opening panel, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark discussed with global business leaders the role of the private sector in advancing the SDGs and adopting a more sustainable path, highlighting key UNDP initiatives such as the Business Call to Action.

“How business does business, and where it does business, will have a significant impact on whether the SDGs are achieved. Through commitment to inclusive business models and eco-sensitive ways of operating, I see the private sector making an important contribution towards more sustainable environmental and social practices,” said Helen Clark. “The biggest breakthrough would be in mainstreaming gender equality and women’s rights in the work place,” she added.

Business leaders discussed different strategies for advancing the new development agenda, before moving to a high-level gathering including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other top business executives.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered an opening address, where he said: “I’m counting on the private sector. Now is the time to mobilise the global business community as never before. The case is clear. Realising the Sustainable Development Goals will improve the environment for doing business and building markets.” 

Chancellor Merkel reflected on the success of the past 15 years, noting her optimism for the implementation of the SDGs. She called for the world to build on this momentum and continue to work together to achieve these Global Goals by 2030.

More than 150 world leaders gathered at the General Assembly on Friday to give final approval to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. After an inclusive process of international negotiation and widespread consultation with both private sector and civil society, the 17 goals are a global call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all human beings enjoy peace and prosperity.

Every year since 2008, the UN Private Sector Forum brings together CEOs, heads of government and UN agencies to discuss pressing issues such as climate change, global development, and human rights. This year’s event comes at a crucial time, as the world adopts an ambitious new development agenda that aims to deal with some of the most pressing challenges of our times, including economic inequality, peace and climate change.

As a keynote speaker, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urged businesses to support the new development agenda and spoke of the importance of providing internet connectivity as a key driver of social and economic change. He announced Facebook’s commitment to make universal internet access a reality through the intiative    

“Connecting the world is one of the fundamental challenges of our generation,” said Zuckerberg. “For every ten people that get connected to the internet, one gets lifted out of poverty. By connecting more people in developing countries, we have the opportunity to create more than 140 million new jobs, lift 160 million people out of poverty and give more than 600 million children access to affordable learning tools.”  

Today’s Private Sector Forum saw more than 35 corporate commitments to include sustainable development in their core business practices, including investment in low-carbon infrastructure, combatting corruption, gender equality in the workplace, and strengthening access to healthcare services.

The urgent refugee crisis was also a major topic of concern among participants. Several new commitments were announced in response to the Business Action Pledge in Response to the Refugees Crisis launched last week by the UN Global Compact and UN High Commission for Refugees. These included educational opportunities, job training, and healthcare for refugees as well as funding for refugee aid organizations in war-torn countries.   

The event also saw the launch of the SDG Compass. Developed jointly by Global Reporting Initiative, the UN Global Compact and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, this is a guide for companies on how to enhance their contribution to sustainable development through core business activities.

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