A boost to the role of business in overcoming global problems such as extreme poverty, finite natural resource exploitation and climate change is expected to follow the launch of a new global commission.
The aim of the commission launched at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, is to highlight the big rewards awaiting firms that take a lead in poverty reduction and sustainable development.
The Global Commission on Business and Sustainable Development (GCBSD), financed by Australia amongst others, aims to articulate and quantify the economic case for businesses engaging in sustainable development.
The new coalition, which was formed by Unilever chief executive Paul Polman and former United Nations Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch-Brown, plans to demonstrate the economic advantages offered to businesses that help achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in by the UN in September.
“We have an opportunity to unlock trillions of dollars through new markets, investments and innovation, but to do so, we must challenge our current practices and address poverty, inequality and environmental challenges,” said Mr Polman in a statement.
“Every business will benefit from operating in a more equitable, resilient world if we achieve the SDGs.”
The commission aims to show how new business models can align profitability with social purpose and demonstrate the significant economic rewards to be reaped from tackling challenges such as poverty, inequality and environmental stress.
It brings together a large coalition of business and civil society leaders, such as Peter Bakker, president of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD); John Danilovich, secretary general of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC); and John Fallon, chief executive of United Kingdom publishing firm Pearson.
“A massive prize awaits business if it successfully ushers in an era of shared prosperity and increased sustainability,” said Mr Malloch-Brown in a statement.
“Governments and international organisations alone cannot build the future we need.
As well as showcasing the new markets, investment opportunities and innovations to be created by working towards the SDGs, the commission will also highlight the risks to performance and stability in the business world if the world fails to address global challenges.
The GCBSD is backed by a host of organisations including the UN Foundation and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), with financing from the Rockefeller Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the governments of Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK.
Its report, set for release next year, will outline new business and financial models alongside market opportunities in sustainable approaches, and promote the necessity of business working alongside governments, international organisations and civil society.