Global crisis, global response? This is the only way forward, according to the United Nations Global Compact, an organisation that brings together 13,000 companies around a commitment to contribute to a more stable, inclusive and sustainable world. Fella Imalhayene, General Delegate of Global Compact France, gives her perspective of the lessons from the past year, in light of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
International cooperation and inter-stakeholder dialogue are essential for an effective crisis response.
The Covid-19 pandemic has set us back with reference to the 2030 Agenda, both in terms of health and well-being, and in achieving quality lifelong education. The same is true for gender equality: many jobs filled by women in the service sector and informal economy have been put on hold, putting many at risk of poverty.
Besides health, the crisis is affecting all objectives. Everything is linked: we know that we cannot resolve the issue of climate change or the loss of biodiversity in isolation, for example. These issues form a coherent whole that must be addressed at the same time.
However, since the beginning of the crisis, sovereign tendencies have taken centre stage. Everyone is trying to act alone for their own country’s benefit and make others responsible for the problems. In the United States, for instance, the first reaction was to cut funding to the World Health Organization. The method is counterproductive: the global pandemic will not go away on its own. Conversely, it underlines the need for interconnection and coordination between government authorities and also between companies, associations and civil society, as part of a global approach that embraces national and local levels. To facilitate this international collaboration, António Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, appealed to business leaders, with over a thousand supporting him by urging states to cooperate more. This is a totally unprecedented situation in today’s multilateral world: the private sector has never been invited to the table until now!
Responsibility, sustainability, the keys to a non-crisis world?
In France, small businesses that have embraced the UN’s SDGs have made headway. Putting a sustainable strategy in place means they’ve already had to think about the long term, including the risk of a crisis, regardless of its nature. This has meant they’ve gone through the past year with a better ability to recover. They have already forged strong links internally with their employees and externally with stakeholders in their business sectors, who are more inclined to provide them with support. We’re currently helping a small factory in Ariège which is involved in preserving biodiversity. Since March 2020, its orders were sometimes suspended, but they were never cancelled.
By overcoming distances, digital technology is also a formidable tool for resilience, facilitating how we share knowledge and data. This is essential data for us since the 2030 Agenda requires a matrix way of thinking that integrates the different impacts of each stakeholder. We’re planning to map the progress of each objective more precisely so that companies can position themselves in relation to their region and business sector. Digital tools help us to grasp this global complexity.
The UN Global Compact
Originally set up in 2000, the Global Compact has been responsible for promoting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals included in the 2030 Agenda since 2015, making them more concrete for business sectors. The detailed roadmap covers all the main issues impacting people and the planet. The SDGs encourage international cooperation and solidarity in several ways. Signed by the 193 UN member nations, they constitute a global and common language. From fighting poverty and hunger to promoting health and well-being, objectives are universal and cooperation between partners is one way to achieve them (SDG 17).