Going Local: Taking the Global UN Sustainable Development Goals to Pittsburgh with THINC30

I recently returned home to Pittsburgh from a trip to New York City more energized than usual. I was in New York attending the annual UN Global Compact Leaders’ Summit held during the 72nd UN General Assembly. At the summit, roughly 800 business leaders from more than 70 countries joined leaders from government, civil society and the UN to dial up responsible business efforts and partnerships around the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the Paris Climate Agreement.

And then I read a great Huffington Post Piece about Pittsburgh that Howard Fineman recently wrote titled, “Pittsburgh’s Back. Thanks to People Who Pulled their City Up.”

People who use their “purpose” and drive change around their passions can do great things, including pulling up cities. And when we harness that type of change occurring in cities, we can collectively change regions, countries and affect the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Starting local can mean affecting global.

Back in New York, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed called on business leaders to accelerate their commitment to the SDGs and “show the courage that helps chart a new course for humankind,” while Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, spoke about the critical importance of achieving gender equality (SDG #5) in technology fields, imploring leaders to not let women “lose out in the digital revolution,” like they did in the industrial revolution.

I found a true Pittsburgh connection at the Leader’s Summit, our mayor the Honorable William (Bill) Peduto. Mayor Peduto spoke from the heart about the city he loves, the city he was born and raised in. He spoke about the dismal shape Pittsburgh was in throughout the 1970s and 80s after the collapse of the steel industry but, importantly, how people with purpose made the difference.

“There were some really smart people who started thinking about what if our future was different than our past. And instead of offering a false hope and a false narrative, they offered a long-term plan of how a city — a city that had its economic heart ripped out, a city that everyone had said had lived its time and had died — could come back.”

Mayor Peduto was absolutely correct. Pittsburgh’s “third renaissance” was no accident. The city’s transformation was deliberate, the result of careful, thoughtful planning by public and private partners who created a roadmap to put the region on a more sustainable path.

“Purpose” was one of the recurring themes at the Leaders’ Summit. The other was “making global local.” Those two themes, coupled with Mayor Peduto’s sustainability blueprint for Pittsburgh’s “fourth industrial revolution,” which puts human capital at the center, make me confident that Covestro is on the right track with its own upcoming regional summit called THINC30. Taking the global SGDs local in a purpose-driven, thoughtful way that advances the concept of “citizens as philanthropists” is precisely what THINC30 is all about.

Globally, Covestro signed on to the SDGs early – in the fall of 2015 when they were first introduced. With THINC30, we want to introduce them to businesses, organizations and individuals in Southwestern Pennsylvania so we can all begin to think and act collectively in order to secure the region’s economic, social and environmental future by 2030.

We’ll be helped along by an array of leading international and national leaders, including – by video -- Lise Kingo, who, as executive director of the UN Global Compact, the world’ largest voluntary corporate sustainability initiative, understands the role industry must play in mitigating climate change and forging sustainable development.

Likewise, Carl Pope who, as executive director of the Sierra Club, spearheaded its formation of the Green/Blue Alliance with the United Steelworkers in 2006. The Green/Blue Alliance focuses on interrelated issues both organizations deem important to them, such as a clean environment, better jobs and a safer world. We look forward to Carl sharing some of the climate change solutions he and co-author Michael Bloomberg put forth in their book, “Climate of Hope: How Big Cities, Businesses and Citizens Can Save Planet.”

I expect he’ll be interested to learn about our region’s own industry initiative, CEOs for Sustainability, which is led by chief executives under the auspices of the nonprofit, Sustainable Pittsburgh, and its director, Court Gould.

Also on hand will be Aaron Hurst and Stephen Ritz. Aaron is leading the way on “the purpose economy,” which also happens to be the title of his book. The founder of Taproot and Imperative will present breakthrough research on how businesses and organizations can use the UNSDGs as a framework to embed purpose into their business models. Stephen is basically a one-man purpose machine. Founder of Green Bronx Machine and author of “The Power of the Plant,” Stephen will show how a life lived with purpose is tackling some 10 SDGs and transforming the lives of children who live in the poorest congressional district in the country – the South Bronx.

They, along with local experts will explore their strategies to combat hunger, poverty and gender inequality, to foster decent work and economic growth, good health and well-being and quality education, and to achieve clean air and sanitation, responsible consumption and production and sustainable cities and communities, among others.

In doing so, THINC30 aims to bring more industry leaders to the table to support their efforts and drive change. But it also brings to the table NGO’s, academia, government leaders, and citizens – all needed to support Goal 17 – Sustainable Partnerships.

We can all make the difference we want to see by using “purpose.” It’s powerful.

Rebecca L. Lucore is Head of CSR and Sustainability for Covestro LLC’s America’s region, responsible for innovating new approaches to social programs, philanthropy and donations, community relations and partnerships and sustainability initiatives in North and South America. She also oversees i3 (ignite, imagine, innovate), Covestro’s U.S CSR program that aims to spark curiosity, to envision what could be and to help create it.

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