For many people, the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), foremost of which is to end poverty in all its forms everywhere by 2030, are the primary responsibility of states and governments. The goals, also called “Agenda 2030”, were adopted by 193 member states of the UN in 2015.
But a growing number of companies and business enterprises worldwide believe that the achievement of the ambitious targets of the SDGs in a little more than decade would be impossible without the active support and participation of business. For these business leaders, it is not enough that businesses support the SDGs. Businesses must change their way of doing things to ensure that the goals become part of strategy, culture and day-to-day operations.
These organizations which are strongly committed to helping achieve the 17 SDGs organized the UN Global Compact, which now counts around 9,000 companies and 4,000 other non-business enterprises as members worldwide. Apart from incorporating the goals in their operations, members are also expected to publicly advocate the UN Global Compact via communication vehicles and issue reports to stakeholders on how they are implementing the compact’s principles and advancing the SDGs.
Each year, the UN Global Compact selects SDG Pioneers “to shine a spotlight on individuals who champion sustainability and are mobilizing companies to be a force for good.”
For 2017, the UN Global Compact’s 10 “pioneers” included Ayala Corp. Chairman and CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, who is being recognized as a champion for sustainable business strategy and operations. He is the first business leader from Southeast Asia to named an SDG pioneer.
This year’s list also spelled out the specific field for which pioneers are being recognized. They will be honored in a ceremony during the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit in New York on September 21.
“Mr. Zobel has been impactful in reaching a wider segment of the business market through innovation and diversification,” said Lise Kingo, UN Global Compact CEO and Executive Director, in a statement. “He has been a Pioneer in the inclusion of long-term sustainability in business strategy and operations.”
Ayala Corp. has been reporting its sustainable business practices since 2007. In fact, for its year-end report in 2016, the conglomerate adopted the integrated annual reporting framework, which “provides a clear and concise representation of how an organization demonstrates stewardship and how it creates and sustains value.” It’s the first local conglomerate to use the method.
In the same report, the company named some of its companies that have pledged to become not only financially sustainable but more environmentally conscious as well. This includes AC Energy, which invests in renewable forms of energy, and Ayala Land, which has set out a goal to become carbon neutral by 2022.
“I believe that now, more than ever, a deeper engagement with society is indispensable to the survival and success of private enterprises. From both a practical and moral standpoint, businesses cannot thrive in an environment rife with economic inequity,” Zobel de Ayala said in a statement. “Ignoring these issues threatens our ability to create long-term value and jeopardizes the sustainability of the enterprise and markets.”
Watch UN and local business leaders launch the Philippine Business for Environment (PBE)’s Private Sector Contribution to the SDGs Report on September 20, 2017.
Elyssa Christine Lopez is Entrepreneur.com.ph's staff writer. Follow her on Twitter @elyssalopz.