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United Nations Global Compact ‘Starting Point’ for Any Business Seeking to Advance Sustainable Development Goals, Secretary-General Tells Forum

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the United Nations Private Sector Forum, in New York today:

Thank you for joining us here.  We meet just one day after the historic adoption of Agenda 2030 to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and protect our planet.  This gathering brings together the partners we need to realize its goals:  businesses, investors, civil society representatives and Government officials.

In a sense, 26 September is even more important than 25 September.  Today, we begin the hard work of turning plans into reality.  We are starting on solid footing.

The Sustainable Development Goals were forged from the most inclusive policy dialogue we have ever organized.  Governments must take the lead in living up to their pledges.  At the same time, I am counting on the private sector to drive success.

Now is the time to mobilize the global business community as never before.  The case is clear.  Realizing the Sustainable Development Goals will improve the environment for doing business and building markets.  Trillions of dollars in public and private funds are to be redirected towards the Sustainable Development Goals, creating huge opportunities for responsible companies to deliver solutions.

The Sustainable Development Goals are unprecedented in their ambition — but the fundamental ways that business can contribute remain unchanged.

First, companies need to do business responsibly and then pursue new opportunities.  In short, companies must not make our world’s problems worse before they try to make them better.

We would be closer to the world we want if companies everywhere took baseline actions like respecting employee rights, not polluting land, sea and air, and punishing corruption.

Our United Nations Global Compact is the starting point for any company seeking to advance the Sustainable Development Goals.  The Compact’s 10 principles provide a universal definition for responsible business.  With over 8,000 participants in 160 countries, we are bringing principled business to markets everywhere.

I thank the many United Nations Global Compact champions here and I urge others to join.  It is time to transform business models so they meet people’s needs.  This will also drive corporate growth and success.

Many of you are taking the leap:  tapping into new markets and developing solutions, setting ambitious corporate goals inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals, letting sustainability drive innovation and investment.

Companies are starting to set goals around carbon and water neutrality — 100 per cent renewable energy usage — paying a living wage, and inclusive supply chains.

Today, we will hear new commitments and partnerships to spur broader action.  I hope we will reach a critical mass beyond the leaders in this room.  To help achieve this, the “SDG Compass” was launched today by the Global Reporting Initiative, the United Nations Global Compact and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.  It guides business on aligning strategies and reporting with the Sustainable Development Goals.  That will mobilize even more action.

The United Nations has transformed its relationship the private sector in the past decade and a half.  Many Governments also support the complementary role that business can play to advance sustainable markets and build trust.  Now I call for even stronger commitment to partnership, especially on our most pressing challenges.

In the realm of peace and good governance, companies are taking actions that help — like fostering inter-religious understanding in the workplace and enacting zero tolerance policies on corruption.

Under the Global Compact business for rule of law framework, companies are creating databases of laws and automating birth registration systems.  Strong rule of law is an essential foundation for advancing sustainable development — and it provides the predictability and transparency that is so important to the private sector.

On the grave refugee crisis, companies are making critical pledges beyond philanthropy — using their business to help through hiring, supply chains, technology and more.

On climate change, responsible companies are calling for a meaningful, universal climate agreement.  The Climate Change Conference in Paris this December will be critical.  I call on all businesses to help realize our vision of a low-carbon future to help the planet and all people.

Our Caring for Climate initiative is a perfect starting point.  It stands for a price on carbon, science-based targets, and pushing back against negative lobbying.  You can show the world that green business is good business.

The 2030 Agenda holds the promise of a better, safer, greener future for all.   We will achieve transformational change only with the help of responsible business, investment and civil society.  Thank you for your leadership and partnership as we embark on a new era full of opportunity.

For information media. Not an official record.