A Call to Action: Co-Creating the Future through Corporate Social Responsibility and the Sustainable Development Goals

Jul 15, 2016

By: Mr Ola  Almgren

UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in the Philippines


League of Corporate Foundations – Corporate Social Responsibility Expo 2016

15 July 2016, Rizal Ballroom, Makati Shangri-la Hotel, Ayala Avenue, Makati City


Magandang hapon po, sa inyong lahat.


We thank the League of Corporate Foundations for the invitation and opportunity to contribute to your discussions. We also congratulate the League of Corporate Foundations for the 20 years of promoting the contribution and importance of corporate social responsibility to development


So.., Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals.


There are seventeen of them.  Agreed and committed to by all Member States of the United Nations at the Sustainable Development Summit in New York in September last year.


With a total of 169 targets to be achieved by the year 2030.  Together they set a hugely ambitious agenda to advance human development, to safeguard our planet, to bring prosperity for all, to turn conflict to peace, and to establish a partnership for their achievement that the world has never seen before.  Ambitious but essential to our future.


And now, we have indicators.  Not the least thanks to the leadership exercised by the Philippines and its Philippine Statistics Authority over the United Nations inter-agency and expert group working on the development of those indicators.  Indicators that make it possible for us to establish the baseline and measure our progress as we work towards the achievement of all targets of the seventeen goals.


The Sustainable Development Goals take over from the Millennium Development Goals and continue the quest for human development. 


They raise the ambition and broaden the scope to include enablers – such as access to clean energy, decent work, innovation, sustainable cities and responsible consumption.


And, they aim to take action against climate change, to safeguard our environment and natural resources, and to ensure peace and justice, protected by strong institutions.


Now, the Philippines came a long way in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.  Much has been achieved in advancing development and addressing inequalities.  Still, there are many challenges ahead.  These are but a few examples:


  • In the Philippines, the poverty incidence has decreased from 34.4% in 1991, to an estimate of 25.8% in 2014.  However, 1 in every 4 Filipinos still lives in poverty.  And 1 in every 10 Filipinos live in subsistence poverty, meaning that they do not have enough food to put on the table for their everyday needs. (Source:National Anti-Poverty Commission)


  • In the Philippines, 1 in every 3 children is stunted, and the prevalence of stunting among children under five continues to rise (!), not decline as one would have hoped… (Source: Food and Nutrition Research Institute)


  • The Philippines is the only Asia-Pacific country where the rate of teen pregnancies rose over the last two decades.(Source: UNFPA)


  • In the Philippines, one out of ten Filipinos does not have access to a grid or electricity.  Non-renewable energy accounts for 75 percent of the Philippines’ energy sources, with coal accounting for 44.5 percent of the country’s power generation source. (Source: Philippine Department of Energy, World Bank)


  • The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report places the Philippines among the lowest in the ASEAN for key infrastructure services, and substantially lower than the ASEAN average in overall infrastructure. (Source: World Economic Forum)


  • And as I am sure we are all very well aware, the Philippines has the slowest internet connection among ASEAN members, despite the fact that only 40 percent of Filipinos have access to internet. (Source: ASEAN)


And to look at the perils of climate change; devastations caused by typhoons continue to negate economic and development progress, with an estimated cost not only in the loss of lives but also in terms of economic damages and losses amounting to 388.4 million USD in 2015, by all accounts a comparatively “quiet year”.


Why do I make these examples?  Not only to highlight the absolute imperative that these challenges are addressed.  But also to say that each one of them, as a matter of fact, represents an opportunity. 


An opportunity for the corporate sector to act responsibly and sustainably.  An opportunity for business to be profitable in the long term while maintaining corporate social responsibility.


Profitable through innovation.  Through access to new markets.  Through horizontal and vertical expansion.  Through supporting development for the people that contribute to the value chain, make up the workforce and are the customers of a corporation.  Profitable through the use of practices that protect our environment and our natural resources.


So my call to action:


Join the United Nations Global Compact if you haven’t already, and report on your progress in applying its ten principles as they relate to human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.


Use the SDG Compass that supports companies in aligning their strategies as well as in taking measures that maximizes their contribution to the SDGs.


Heed the Business Call to Action that challenges companies to develop innovative business models that achieve commercial success and development outcomes.


Check-in to the SDG Business Hub of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which is a one-stop shop which consolidates and provides easy access to all relevant information for businesses related to the Sustainable Development Goals.


Learn from initiatives such as the Common Ground initiative on how companies that are normally competitors can come together and jointly support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.


And there are others…


For our part, as the United Nations,


  • We can help with research and analysis that can inform future legislation, policies and actions.


  • We can help to translate the Global Goals into national and local strategies, plans, and budgets, and strengthen data and monitoring systems.


  • We can help identify the obstacles and bottlenecks to making progress on goals and targets, and to identify actions which could speed up progress.


  • We can draw on development acceleration tools that have been used in more than fifty countries in recent years.


  • We can provide demand-driven advice and technical assistance drawing on the great depth and breadth of knowledge and programme experience gained over many decades and in many parts of the world.


  • We are looking at establishing an innovations fund that will help start-ups with innovative and promising development solutions to build their businesses for private investment. 


For the business sector, there has never been a more critical time to change the way you do business  - which means going beyond CSR and integrating SDGs in core business/operations. While CSR started as goodwill, now is the time to move beyond goodwill and advocacy and show leadership, innovation, share resources and offer concrete partnerships.


In his statement at the” 2016 UN Global Compact Leaders Summit: Making Global Goals Local Business” last month, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said:


“Achieving the SDGs will require unprecedented cooperation and extraordinary leadership. And it will require us each to be a pioneer, forging ahead into new territory. That means taking personal and corporate responsibility for how we do business and who we choose as our staff and partners. It means taking stock of our decisions as consumers and investors. It also means raising our voices and taking a stand when it matters. The United Nations Global Compact is the forum to make all this happen.”


There are many opportunities for us to work closely together but above all, we need your contributions to the achievement of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.  I certainly look forward to maintaining and deepening the contact with the partners present here in this regard.


Thank you very much, maraming salamat po.

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