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DSG/SM/1452
22 September 2020

Citing ‘Unprecedented’ Moment, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Global Impact Forum to Match Engagement with Measurable Impact for Planet, amid COVID Pandemic

Following is the text of Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s video message on the occasion of the United Nations Global Compact virtual Global Impact Forum, today:

It is a pleasure to join you for the inaugural “Global Impact Forum”.  I thank the United Nations Global Compact for convening such an impressive group of business leaders and sustainability experts and practitioners.

For two decades, the United Nations Global Compact has had a clear mission —— to unite business for a better world.  To date, 11,000 companies and 3,000 non-business signatories in 160 countries have signed on to the Compact.  All these participants have committed to align their business policies and practices with 10 universal principles in support of human rights, labour rights, the environment and the fight against corruption.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, we confront a global development emergency unlike any other in the 75-year history of the United Nations.  Millions of lives and livelihoods are at risk.  Decades of development progress are being reversed.

The crisis has laid bare the fragility of our national and global systems.  Staggering levels of poverty and inequality.  Persistent gender bias and systemic racism.  A weakening of international cooperation and trust in institutions.

But as daunting as this moment feels, Agenda 2030, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), charts the way for businesses to weather this storm and work together towards a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable future.  I urge you to meet this unprecedented moment.  It is time to match engagement and ambition with much more concrete action — tangible, measurable impact for the planet and its people, especially our youth and women.

Recognizing that global challenges require local partnerships and solutions, the United Nations Global Compact and its local networks in 68 countries have rolled out four initiatives to raise ambition for the delivery of the SDGs.

1.    The SDG Ambition initiative sets a series of best-practice business benchmarks for sustainability based on the SDGs.  It calls upon business leaders to set targets against these benchmarks, taking bold, comprehensive action across their operations and value chains.

2.    The Young SDG Innovators Programme offers an opportunity for companies to identify today’s young talent — and tomorrow’s leaders — and give them the tools to fast-track business innovation towards the SDGs.  Three-hundred-and-twenty-five young professionals from 130 companies in 10 countries have participated in the first round of the programme, developing more than 80 sustainable business solutions.

To cite just one example, a team of Young SDG Innovators has focused on energy security for remote, local communities in the United States and Canada — communities that normally rely on diesel-fuelled generators as their only power source.  The innovators are working towards more reliable, sustainable electricity in these communities through power purchase agreements in which residents gain equity ownership.

3.    Target Gender Equality is an accelerator programme for companies to set and reach ambitious corporate targets for women’s participation and leadership at all levels — starting at the top.  More than 3,500 companies have signed the CEO Statement of Support for the Women’s Empowerment Principles, but the challenge remains:  two thirds of these companies still need to set specific, time-bound targets.  Increasing women’s participation does not only lead to an improvement in women’s lives but will also make businesses more diverse.  Gender improvements and board diversity has been associated with greater innovation and market growth.

4.    Finally, Business Ambition for 1.5° Celsius engages companies in setting science-based targets consistent with limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.  Business is also working with local and national governments to raise their ambition level on climate.  To date, more than 280 companies have signed on to the 1.5 campaign.  Limiting global warming is, of course, an opportunity for a just transition to green economies that avoids the calamities of climate change.

In your discussions today, I encourage you to share your insights about how to apply and deepen the sustainability agenda to your day-to-day operations and your business ecosystem.  Thus, transforming your core business model.  This Forum is a meeting of minds, matching local perspectives with global ambitions.  It is about answering hard, practical questions with actionable and scalable solutions.  It is about uniting business for a better world.

I wish you all a productive dialogue that sparks a surge of action on Agenda 2030 in your countries, companies and communities.

For information media. Not an official record.