South African companies have been urged to develop more sustainable businesses in line with the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), at the 2019 Trialogue Business in Society Conference.
The UN General Assembly set 17 SDGs in 2015 for the year 2030. These cover issues such as health, education, gender equality, poverty and access to clean water. The SDGs have been a key topic at the conference, which has brought together more than 400 stakeholders to discuss sector challenges, lessons and innovations for more effective and sustainable developmental interventions.
Speaking at the conference Shahazar Yazid, executive director of UN Global Compact in Malaysia, said: “Without a timeline (for 2030) there is no pressure, and companies and governments can just delay until it is too late.
“Why wait three years? Change the game now. Unless companies step out of their comfort zones there will not be real change in their organisations.”
Yazid urged companies to align themselves with the UN Global Compact Network, an international organisation, with local representatives, which supports and partners with companies working to meet SDGs.
“Many companies have viewed the UN as a regulatory body with rules they are forced to comply with,” he said. “Its Global Compact organisation, however, is more flexible. It offers a policy framework whereby companies can better join in and engage with universally accepted principles.”
Yazid cited several UN Global Compact sustainability success stories in Malaysia, achieved through collaboration with stakeholders in the public and private sectors:
- The CSO SDG alliance, a group of 30 NGO and advocacy organisations in Malaysia, collaborated to secure dialogue with Malaysian economic planning leaders. This has ensured inclusion in national development planning, helping to determine how the Malaysian government allocates its funds.
- The National SDG Portal has been established as an online enabling platform (open to the public) that is increasing business awareness of the SDGs and action on the ground.
- A group of pharmaceutical CEOs who source their palm oil from Malaysia and neighbouring countries are now better informed of how their businesses are impacting on the natural environment. As a result they have allocated dedicated budgets to help Malaysian farmers to better understand sustainability and to equip them with the appropriate tools to farm better.
“It has never been easier for those who want to have an impact, to do so,” said Yazid. “The SDGs are very attractive goals and the solutions are out there – you’ve just got to look. If we work together things can be fixed.
“The Global Compact has branches everywhere and I appeal to all of you to, at the very least, look for the local chapter in your area. If you want to be sustainable and don’t know where to start, or want to grow the sustainability of your business, the Global Compact can assist.
“I assure you that with the UN branding for the Global Compact, there is the UN guarantee. If you have a proposal or project that needs their support, we have the reach and ability to open doors because of the UN logo. I can guarantee the Global Compact will do everything it can to make sure your idea becomes a reality.”