UN Secretary-General Urges U.S. and Global Businesses to Embrace Sustainability Challenge

Feb 14, 2012 4:30 PM ET

(3BL Media / theCSRfeed) New York - February 14, 2012 - Speaking at a corporate sustainability summit in New York today, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on U.S. and global business leaders to embed sustainability practices in their strategies and operations and join forces with the UN in advancing sustainable development around the globe.

Titled Business Perspective on Sustainable Growth: Preparing for Rio+20, the three-day event is hosted by KPMG International in collaboration with the UN Global Compact, the UNEP Finance Initiative and the World Business Council on Sustainable Development. Bringing together 600 high-level participants from international business and the public policy community, the summit aims to be a catalyst for corporations and governments to advance the green growth agenda in the lead-up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) this June in Brazil.

“What I see is a crisis of leadership – a lack of imagination in looking at old problems with fresh eyes – and a lack of urgency as the clock keeps ticking down,” the Secretary-General said, while outlining the private sector as a key partner of the United Nations. “In these uncertain and tumultuous times, we need to work together to deliver solutions for sustainability.”

The Secretary-General also highlighted several UN-backed initiatives designed to stimulate greater engagement of companies across the “quadruple bottom-line” – financial, social, environmental and ethical. He encouraged companies to join the nearly 7,000 corporate signatories in the UN Global Compact, and called for stronger support for the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment and Principles for Responsible Management Education. Other initiatives mentioned include Sustainable Energy for All, Caring for Climate, the CEO Water Mandate, the Women’s Empowerment Principles, and Every Woman Every Child.

The Secretary-General called on U.S. companies in particular: “We need more companies in the United States to make this choice”, he said, noting that only a small percentage of the world’s 80,000 multinational corporations have made clear commitments to corporate sustainability. “We need corporate sustainability to be in the DNA of business culture and operations. Going to scale is the priority.”

Describing the Rio Conference as an opportunity for business and investors to exhibit leadership, the Secretary-General urged businesses to participate in the Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum, organized by the UN Global Compact and designed to showcase innovative public-private partnerships and business contributions. He further called on the businesses to publicly report on sustainability performance; engage in responsible lobbying and advocacy; work with governments to adopt smart regulatory frameworks; and partner with the United Nations and its agencies, funds and programmes.

About the United Nations Global Compact
Launched in 2000, the United Nations Global Compact is a both a policy platform and a practical framework for companies that are committed to sustainability and responsible business practices. As a multi-stakeholder leadership initiative, it seeks to align business operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and to catalyze actions in support of broader UN goals. With 7,000 corporate signatories in 140 countries, it is the world’s largest voluntary corporate responsibility initiative. www.unglobalcompact.org