New UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be unveiled in September to offer firms the opportunity to improve their performance and the societies in which they operate, a conference was told.
Georg Kell, executive director of the UN Global Compact, said the public and private realms were blurring and so companies had to take responsibility for factors, such as air quality and water scarcity, once considered “externalities”.
Speaking at the Sedex Global Responsible Sourcing Conference, Kell said: “What used to be called externalities are now part of your business.
“No corporation over time can be successful in societies that fail.”
The SDGs, which replace the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, are currently being finalised. They include 17 goals covering “a variety of basic human needs”.
Kell said the world “is becoming less predictable” with more threats to markets and companies must help foster “enabling environments”, which meant collaborating with supply chains and public organisations.
“Technological change has allowed us to offer solutions to every problem mankind faces today, yet we find it hard to apply those solutions on a scale large enough,” he said.
“The enabling environment is more important than ever. If you don’t tackle constraints in your supply chain you will pay a price in one way or another.
“I do believe corporate responsibility is moving into a new phase where collaboration, improvement and the enabling environment are more important than ever.”
Kell added: “The Sustainable Development Goals will offer you an opportunity to prioritise development priorities which matter for the business and through collaboration you can not only improve your performance but also make an important contribution by improving the enabling environment where you work.”