Letter from Sanda Ojiambo, Executive Director & CEO of the UN Global Compact
With 2023 underway, there’s no doubt we live in a fragile, fractured world. The war in Ukraine, energy and food crises, climate change, extreme weather, threats to democracy, the ongoing pandemic, and many other headwinds like inflation, currency fluctuation, and looming recession undermine our efforts for a sustainable world.
These are global challenges we must rally behind addressing. Let’s make sure that 2023 is a year that turns the tide back to progress. Solutions are always near. We have several important opportunities that can contribute to a more sustainable and inclusive world.
With the world facing extraordinary crises, the UN Global Compact and its 62 Local Networks are supporting companies to take measurable, accountable actions for a sustainable world. It’s the right thing to do and good for business.
This year, I’d particularly like to call on CEOs and challenge them to be bolder and more ambitious in how they lead their companies. Indeed, many of our participating CEOs are already making major contributions. We must recognize and appreciate these efforts in difficult times. However, we need everyone to give an extra push.
For business, taking a principles-based, sustainable approach improves long-term business outcomes and competitiveness while assuring greater inclusion and equality.
The UN’s 2023 SDG Summit in September will mark the halfway point of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and take stock of where we are and need to be. This will be a critical milestone and a significant opportunity for companies and stakeholders to announce ambitious and credible actions and targets.
We have a real opportunity to revive efforts toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Now is the time for leadership. With governments and other stakeholders, the private sector must be bold. We expect our participants to drive positive impacts across the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact. This year, we believe it is especially important for businesses to take action to address five areas:
1. living wage
2. climate change
3. gender equality
4. water stewardship
5. sustainable finance
These are the five areas we believe the private sector can make the greatest impact on accelerating progress across the Global Goals. Acting on these areas can also drive business opportunities through inclusivity, better business, and mobilizing capital.
Climate change remains the existential threat to this planet, threatens the global economy, and impedes progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. That’s why UN Secretary-General António Guterres has also announced the Climate Ambition Summit in September and called on every leader to step up and bring new, credible, serious climate actions.
This includes a call to companies to set science-based targets and support the achievement of the Paris Agreement. Let’s not forget we need to do this for the young people and future generations calling for action to achieve the Paris Agreement.
Last year’s report, Integrity Matters, by the UN High-Level Expert Group on Net-Zero Commitments, provides a how-to guide to ensure credible, accountable net-zero pledges. Actions by the private sector and others around these recommendations will be vital to the Climate Ambition Summit and the next steps we take as we look to COP 28.
We need strong, at-scale private sector leaders ready to be ambitious, innovative, and partner. In the year ahead, it will be critical for participants of the UN Global Compact and the broader private sector community to do even more.
At the UN Global Compact, we work towards building a global cohort of responsible businesses that are a force for good. In 2022, 90% of participant companies surveyed confirmed that the UN Global Compact helped them advance corporate responsibility policies and practices.
Last year, we went from being present in 69 countries to 96 countries, and our participants surpassed 17,000 companies and 3,000 non-business participants, representing nearly every sector and size.
We launched our 12th CEO Study earlier this month, drawing on insights from more than 2,600 CEOs across 128 countries and 18 industries.
According to the study, CEOs face an enormously challenging global context, with the vast majority (93%) experiencing ten or more simultaneous challenges to their businesses, and most (87%) warning that current levels of disruption will limit delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals.
But there is room for hope. Nearly all CEOs surveyed (98%) agree that sustainability is core to their role. They increasingly recognize they can build credibility and brand value by committing to the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact and the Sustainable Development Goals throughout their operations.
This is one of the reasons why we are excited to launch our enhanced Communication on Progress for participants this year.
The enhanced Communication on Progress will support decision-making processes and help businesses measure progress in a standardized way that supports recognition, transparency, and comparability of corporate actions. We will require all participants to disclose progress using a new digital platform to add value and streamline reporting on the Ten Principles.
Now, more than ever, we must pair our ambitions with credibility and accountability to ensure we make real change.
Together, we can address many challenges we face in 2023 and beyond. I’m excited about the opportunities before us. I look forward to your continued participation in the UN Global Compact and helping to drive progress towards a more sustainable world.