Originally due to be hosted in New York, the revised virtual event followed the sun around the world delivering 26 hours of inspiring talks, debates and breakout sessions. With more than 23,000 attendees, from in excess of 180 countries, the summit became the UN’s largest-ever convening of the global business community.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the presidents of Botswana, Colombia, Costa Rica and Ethiopia joined the UN Secretary-General, dozens of chief executives and UN chiefs to address the private sector’s response to three global crises: health, inequality and climate change.
Twenty years ago, the late UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, created the UN Global Compact to harness the power of collective action in the promotion of responsible corporate citizenship. The Compact is a framework for businesses that are committed to aligning with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption. On creating the UNGC, Kofi Anan cautioned: ‘If we fail to make globalisation work for all, it will work for none.’
To accompany the summit, the UN Global Compact has just published a review entitled Uniting Business in the Decade of Action – Building on 20 Years of Progress. Having started with 44 pioneering companies, the UNGC is now made up of 10,000+ businesses – including Affinity – representing more than 70 million employees worldwide. Surveying the participants has provided the UN with a valuable insight into business-model transformations which are helping to meet the ten principles, contribute to attainment of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the ambition of the Paris Climate Agreement.
So what progress has been made?
Thanks to the efforts of the UNGC and similar initiatives, we have seen sustainability turn into a strategic business agenda for many companies, across geographies and sectors. Today, 84% of companies participating in the Global Compact are taking action on the SDGs. However, what has emerged from this review is that these are not yet deeply enough integrated into corporate purpose, governance and strategy. For example, only 46% are embedding them into their core business and only 37% are designing business models that contribute to the SDGs.
More importantly, the report suggests the SDGs are not sufficiently visible in decision-making and action. For example, the 80/20 rule permeates too many board rooms – 80% of companies have labour rights policies, but fewer than 20% of firms have set targets. Similarly, gender and diversity policies can be found extensively, but not enough companies are setting targets and measuring/reporting progress. The old cliché: What gets measured, gets done has never been more applicable.
Can we make a difference?
Affinity Private Wealth sits in a sector that should play an important role, contributing to a sustainable Jersey economy, as well as the UN SDGs. Our sector is well positioned to deliver impact in a number of areas, particularly in terms of job creation and directing investor capital to those businesses whose products and services are creating the change needed. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, fixing the world’s biggest problems was going to be expensive. The public funding being committed to achieving the UN sustainability agenda was already trillions of dollars behind where it needed to be. Now, with the added cost of paying for the economic recovery, it seems clearer than ever that massive sums of private capital are needed to close the gap.
Returning to the UN communication, responses highlight that the financial services sector performs better than average on engaging in collective action and stakeholder dialogue. The issues around sustainability require an effective forum, around which governments and the private sector can share resources and harness purpose. We believe, at our local level, the award-winning ecoJersey magazine is providing just such a forum and we are pleased to have supported this from the start.