Looking back, 2015 must be regarded as a landmark year in matters of sustainable development. The United Nations published the 'Sustainable Development Goals' for 2030 and the COP21 conference in Paris ended last December with a comprehensive and binding agreement to combat global warming.
These agreements have the potential to make a difference, in fact to have a real impact around the world, but only if we work together, public and private sector, governments and non-governmental organisations to deliver on these commitments.
The private sector helped prepare the SDG's and had the opportunity to give input. This opportunity to contribute, helped make these goals everyone's goals. So, now is the time for the private sector to make explicit societal commitments, to explain how they will help the world achieve the SDGs.
The private sector can bring in specific expertise, resources, solutions and focus to help drive many of these goals forward (global scope and scale, implementation capacity, innovation and research capabilities, efficiency in execution). We should do this, not out of convenience, but out of conviction. It is just the right thing to do.
Let's take a step back for a moment and look at what--to me--is the role of business in society.
First of all, economic activity should generate prosperity, jobs and progress. The World Bank estimates that 600 million jobs must be created by 2020 just to keep up with population growth. And the private sector provides 9 out of 10 jobs according to the International Finance Corporation (IFC). But the private sector is so much more than just an engine for economic growth and job creation. The private sector is part of our societal fabric and of our development.
A business can only be successful over time and create value for its shareholders if it connects positively with society, if it also creates value for society at the same time. We call that Creating Shared Value.
A company has to create value for all its stakeholders; long term business success depends upon it. From my perspective, a Creating Shared Value lens can help mobilise companies to identify and focus specific business efforts in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Each company must decide on its own where and how to focus and where their business and societal needs intersect more intensely. Companies should be involved in those areas where they, by the very nature of their business, can have a substantial impact.
The challenges the world faces today are so daunting that a new, closer, more collaborative effort is imperative if we are to have even the smallest chance of overcoming them.
There are significant pressure points in society at large, and in the food system specifically, that we need to deal with if we are to continue meeting our nutrition needs without depleting water tables, degrading soil, causing deforestation and reducing land availability.
This is why, at Nestlé, we focus on nutrition, water and the environment, rural development, and human rights, all areas that can help people achieve a healthier diet and lifestyle, a more sustainable environment and a more inclusive society. We make public commitments and we measure our progress. We make these commitments because we believe in them.
There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and many targets. No one institution, government, company or NGO can deliver alone on such an agenda. Tackling them requires action, the right action, decisive action which is coordinated and scaled up.
And the Sustainable Development Goals will guide and frame our actions, they will drive them in the same direction. As we meet in Abidjan on June 21 for our 7th Global Creating Shared Value Forum, let us link our agendas in support of a better future for all.
This post is part of a series produced by Nestlé, in conjunction with the Creating Shared Value Forum (21 June, Côte d'Ivoire, 9 am CET). The Creating Shared Value Forum brings together high level panelists such as Kofi Annan and Michael Porter to discuss how governments, civil society and the private sector can work together to address major socio-economic challenges and accelerate sustainable development in Africa. For more information about the Forum or to follow the event live, click here.