The times they are a changin’ – Corporates boosting efforts to do better

In 1987 the United Nations published their report “Our Common Future” describing sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

34 years went by, half a lifetime in 52 of the 193 countries recognized by the UN, and very close to that in many more. One starts to question how many businesses really tied their desire for growth closely to the aim of not damaging future generations prospects. 

Too little, too slow. The beginning of the negotiations for the Paris Climate Agreement sparked a new era of increased public awareness and activism. Through all age groups and walks of life, people are well informed and up to date on the pressing challenges that lie ahead. And people are increasingly willing to directly address the sources of these issues and to hold them accountable. “What have you done?”, young people demand answers from governments, corporations and the generations of their parents and grandparents as a whole. “What have you done to contribute to these problems?” but also “What have you done to prevent them?”. 

While the answers to those questions don’t come easy,  the answers to “What next?” lie before us in plain sight. The UN set up 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), a blueprint to achieve a better and sustainable future for all. And while progress is already being made in many places, it needs advanced speed and scale in order to deliver the Goals by 2030.

So with “Ten years to transform our world” they are proclaiming a Decade of Action, calling on all sectors of society to mobilize on three levels: global action, local action and people action. 

As of today, more than 12.000 companies in over 160 countries joined the UN Global Compact, which is the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative. Enterprises and Corporations are increasingly implementing the SDGs into their business conduct, aiming either for minimal negative impact or even positive effects on global (or local) environment, community, society or economy. A strategy that seems to come with significant economic rewards. A study by the public research organisation “The Conference Board” shows that out of 12 companies (incl.Siemens, Toshiba, DuPont and Philips) between 2010 and 2013  revenues from sustainable products grew at six times the rate of overall company revenues. Corporate giant Unilever has also seen brands that have integrated sustainability into both their purpose and products grow 30% faster than the rest of their business

The list of actions that can be taken to work towards achieving a better future for everyone spans across all fields of our daily lives:

To end poverty, corporations can improve access to basic goods and services for people living in poverty, develop products and services tailored for poor customers, or invest in business-driven poverty eradication activities. But beyond low income, poverty often comes with limited opportunities and capabilities that can be addressed by recruiting, training and employing local community members. By the empowerment of small farmers and by the increase of agricultural investment, as well as knowledge sharing and rising consumers’ awareness, businesses can help to end hunger, to achieve food security and to promote sustainable agriculture. 

To ensure the availability and sustainable management of clean water and sanitation for everybody, businesses can prioritize water efficiency across operations by installing best practice technologies for water conservation. They can educate employees and consumers about appropriate water behaviors and the importance of water efficiency, invest in water treatment in order to prevent municipal treatment facilities to be overburdened by industrial waste-water etc. 

Corporations are taking urgent action to combat climate change, by sourcing all electricity from renewable sources, by reducing the carbon footprint due to greater fuel efficiency and local sourcing. They increase investments in innovation to improve the efficiency of their portfolios, and with the understanding of climate risk they build resilience into their assets and supply chains. 

Businesses strive to achieve gender equality and to empower all women and girls, with goals being sufficient participation of women (30% or greater) in decision-making and governance at all levels, equal pay and access to child and dependent care services. Zero-tolerance policies towards all forms of violence at work are implemented and an expansion in business relationships with women-owned enterprises is fostered.

We are living in transformative times, and we know the direction. Step by step we are on our way, and more and more businesses and corporations are starting to acknowledge their responsibility, and to see that change has a big potential to lead to increased (financial) success.

Mercer and Institutional Money want to support and bring recognition to best practices, and therefore initiated The “Money 4 Change – Impact Awards.” Presented in four categories, the awards will highlight Asset Owners, Corporates, Entrepreneurs and Collaboration.

Today, we invite Corporations who already have an increased focus/adjustment to SDGs and/or are making increased investments in the area of Social/Climate Impact and/or take climate risks into account in the decision-making process to apply until April 16, 2021 here.

To be eligible for application Corporations must have:

  • Created an alignment with the SDGs (the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations) – having max. 3 SDGs in focus
  • Implemented innovative ideas to solve climate/social problems and challenges
  • Developed and shaped an impact strategy or process
  • A (measurable) sustainable and positive impact on the SDGs

In April 2021, a short list of twelve finalists – three per category – will be disclosed. The final winners will be announced at the gala evening during the „Institutional Money Congress“ in Wiesbaden on May 26, 2021.

In addition, the winners are going to present their solutions at the „Impact Days“, an annual community gathering of professionals interested in mainstreaming impact. Held this year at the Hofburg palace in Vienna, 400 professionals working in innovation, entrepreneurship, and investment for impact across Europe are looking at what already works, and what still needs to be done for the transition towards the impact economy.

Find out more about the awards, the jury and the application process here.

 

Dominik Pernat