Helen Clark: World Business and Development Awards 2012

Jun 19, 2012

Opening Remarks for Helen Clark, Administrator UNDP
on the occasion of the World Business and Development Awards, 2012
Rio + 20 Conference, Rio, Brazil
Windsor Barra Hotel, 6.30pm

It is a pleasure to be here as part of the Business Day organized by Business Action for Sustainable Development, and to see very active engagement from the business community at Rio + 20.

Let me begin by thanking our partners in organising the World Business and Development Awards: the International Chamber of Commerce and the International Business Leaders’ Forum. This is the fifth time we have worked together to organize the Awards.  I also recognize the generous support we have received from other partners, including the Governments of the Netherlands and Sweden, the UN Global Compact, and Cemex.

The past decade has seen considerable evolution in how the role of business in development is viewed.

From the early focus on philanthropy and socially responsible investments, a more sophisticated understanding has grown of how business can make a difference. More and more companies are now capturing business opportunities from undertaking their activities in more inclusive and sustainable ways.

The Awards seek to recognize these efforts because they help move our world towards a more sustainable future and address many of the issues being discussed at Rio + 20.

The world is at a critical juncture across the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. Overall people are healthier, wealthier, and better educated than ever before, but the progress made has been uneven.

More than one billion people lack access to food, electricity, or safe drinking water. The gaps between rich and poor are widening in many places. Unemployment, especially among youth, is a serious structural problem.

As well, the economic progress which has been made has come at considerable cost to our ecosystems. The world is nearing a tipping point on climate change, but decisive and comprehensive action has not been forthcoming.

Pollution, the loss of species and forest cover, and land degradation are all serious issues.  Taken together, inequality and unsustainability are a significant threat to future prosperity, productivity, and stability, as UNDP’s global Human Development Report on these themes pointed out last year.

One thing is for sure – business leadership has an important role to play in getting the world out of this mess. Markets need to be shaped in ways which can deliver more sustainable and equitable futures for all.

Some companies are already starting to do this by looking at integrated and triple-bottom-line reporting as a way of driving efficiency improvements, managing risks, and exploiting new business opportunities.

The winners of this and previous years’ World Business and Development Awards demonstrate how companies of all sizes can help advance sustainable development while also being commercially successful. 

This year’s winners include those which have created jobs for the poor; provided affordable renewable energy solutions for communities; sourced products from small and low-income producers; and provided innovative solutions for reliable and clean water supply, financial services, and safe health products.

More businesses need to come on board, so that this kind of work can have an impact far and wide. Those receiving the awards inspire others to follow.

At UNDP we host the “Business Call to Action”, a partnership with the Governments of Australia, the Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom, the United States, the Global Compact, and the International Business Leaders’ Forum, which supports companies to implement inclusive business models, and to measure the results of their efforts.

As well, together with the support of the Government of Turkey, UNDP is establishing an International Policy Center in Istanbul focusing on the role of the private sector in development. It will promote inclusive and sustainable business approaches and best practice on how to proceed.

At the country level, we work with governments, businesses, and communities on access to value chains and opportunities for jobs, and small entrepreneurs. We are also taking forward the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative. By bringing together governments, other multilateral organisations, companies, NGOs, and local civil society organisations, the initiative aims to attract growing and appropriate sustainable investments in energy solutions.

This year’s winners of the World Business and Development Awards demonstrate clearly what a positive difference businesses committed to inclusion and sustainability can make. I congratulate all Award winners and thank you for the leadership you give in this area.

UNDP Around the world