Achieving the needed change requires a ramping up of both ambition and action among all companies, whether they operate within the energy, healthcare, food, finance, transport or other systems.

  • Remi Eriksen - Group President and CEO, DNV
Making an impact: With only ten years left to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to accelerate from decades of ambition to a Decade of Action.  

From the clamour of school children protesting the lack of action on the climate threat, to the disconcerting new normal of the pandemic and, most recently, the calls for justice and equality around the world, the events of the past year have rocked us. As they should. These events underline that the Sustainable Development Goals are not just ideals to aspire to, but fundamentals in creating a just society, with equal opportunity for all on a planet that is habitable. Time is running out. The Decade of Action must start now. 

When the UN Global Compact asked us to create this report, we asked ourselves how we could shed new light on the progress made and the needed direction onwards. Interviews were conducted with companies that actively participate in the work of the UN Global Compact. These were held during the height of COVID-19 lockdown measures, with a multitude of short-term survival priorities to attend to, emphasizing the importance the business community places on sustainability issues. 

In our research into the UN Global Compact  participants, we found that awareness of the SDGs is high. Within the systems they are part of, companies share a focus on the SDGs that are most pertinent to them. The research confirmed that the Ten Principles have been embedded in corporate practices among the companies interviewed, and that progress has been made in adapting policies and principles over the past twenty years. To deliver deeper change in sustainable business, the business community needs to move from policy commitments to action that can lead to actual performance improvements. 
We found widespread support for the work of the UN Global Compact and a belief that the Global Compact has an important role to play in the nexus between political, business and NGO worlds. There is, however, an opportunity to expand its reach in regions where participation is low. 

As we mark the 20th anniversary of the  UN Global Compact, we note the progress made, but also that there is much more to do. Our previous work assessing the likelihood of achieving the SDGs (Future of Spaceship Earth, 2016) and forecasting the energy future towards 2050 (Energy Transition Outlook, 2019) has shown that step-changes, beyond incremental improvements, are needed to deliver the world humanity wants. Companies and the systems they are part of are moving broadly in the same direction, but not in a concerted effort. Achieving the needed change requires a ramping up of ambition among all companies, whether they  operate within the energy, healthcare, food, finance, transport or other systems. 
Most importantly, this is the decade in which humanity will either succeed or fail in delivering on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Failure cannot be an option. The Decade of Action requires all companies to take a deep look at where we are falling short and set industry-specific goals, standards and execution plans. This is how we will contribute to the transformation needed.

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