UN Sustainable Development Goals and the private sector discussed at Nordic Ambassadors’ Luncheon
NordCham Philippines organized its annual the Nordic Ambassadors’ Luncheon at the Shangri-la at the Fort on October 26, 2017, gathering four Nordic Ambassadors and more than 100 executives from the business community to discuss corporate sustainability, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the private sector.
Back in 2012 at the Rio +20 Earth Summit, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development launched a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. As an outcome of this process, world leaders adopted the 17 SDGs as a part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which officially came into force on January 1, 2016. While the SDGs are not legally binding, governments are expected to take ownership and establish national frameworks for the achievement of the 17 Goals.
- Partnerships between governments, the private sector, and civil society called upon
NordCham president Bo Lundqvist elaborates the purpose of the luncheon: “We come together for this luncheon to exchange best practices and share experiences between the private and public sectors from the Nordic countries, EU and the Philippines. Most relevant for us is Goal 17: “Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development”, where it is recognized that a successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between governments, the private sector, and civil society.”
- Nordic countries topping global sustainability rankings
According to the recently published SDG Index and Dashboards Report 2017 conducted by the Bertelsmann Stiftung and Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Nordic countries are leading the way when it comes to fulfilling the SDGs: all five Nordic countries rank in the top 15 out of 157, with Sweden ranking 1st, Denmark 2nd, Finland 3rd, Norway 4th and Iceland 14th.
Sharing the experience from the Nordic private sector, SEB Singapore General Manager Jan Stjernström highlighted the UN PRI six principles for responsible investment, as well as SEB’s focus areas in sustainability: impact finance, sustainable investments, reducing the footprint, supporting entrepreneurship, responsible and transparent business, and engaged and knowledgeable employees.
From the diplomatic missions, H.E. Jan Top Christensen, Ambassador of Denmark to the Philippines, stressed the importance of partnerships, presenting Danish government’s SDG fund which is expected to generate 5 billion USD investments in commercially viable projects in line with SDG, as well as P4G – Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals which aims at accelerating and scaling up innovative PPPs in energy, water, land use and sustainable cities.
On his part, H.E. Petri Puhakka, Ambassador of Finland to the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei, underlined Finland’s leadership in clean technologies and sustainability, and commitment to SDGs through the national plan, which is reflected both in domestic and foreign policies.
H.E. Erik Førner, Ambassador of Norway to the Philippines, highlighted state-owned equity investor Norfund’s key role as an enabler to job generation through its investments in emerging markets. Furthermore, Ambassador Førner stressed the importance of peace as a prerequisite for sustainable development, and Norway’s active role in the Mindanao peace process.
Rounding out the Nordic views, H.E. Harald Fries, Ambassador of Sweden to the Philippines, focused on the Swedish government’s thrust towards the SDGs through a National Action Plan, wherein human rights, environment, anti-corruption, working conditions, gender equality are in the core of the Swedish way of sustainability. Ambassador Fries added that high-sustainability companies create more value versus low-sustainability companies, according to a Harvard Business School study.
Adding the European Union perspective to the mix, Mr. Walter van Hattum, Head of Economic and Trade Section at EU Delegation in Manila emphasized that comprehensive sustainable development provisions are now part of all EU free trade agreement negotiations, such as deals recently concluded with Canada and Vietnam. Furthermore, the EU has committed 3 billion PHP to the Philippines to generate electricity from renewable energy, and to increase access to affordable and disaster-resilient energy, especially in remote islands and marginalized communities. Mr. van Hattum also noted that acting on climate change has a positive impact economic growth: carbon emissions in the EU have fallen by 22 percent since 1990, while EU GDP has grown by 50 percent during the same period, paving the way for a climate-resilient and low-carbon future.
- Philippine private sector pioneering corporate sustainability
From the Philippine perspective, United Nations Global Compact recently recognized Ayala Corporation chairman and CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala as one of its Sustainable Development Goals Pioneers. Mr. Zobel is the first SDG Pioneer from the Philippines and Southeast Asia, and he is one of 10 individuals from around the world recognized for "championing sustainability through their own companies and mobilizing the broader business community to take action in pursuit of the 17 SDGs.
Speaking on behalf of Mr. Zobel at the luncheon, Ayala Corporation (AC) CFO and Chief Sustainability Officer TG Limcaoco outlined AC’s definition of sustainability as ‘creating shared value’, while citing examples of AC’s focus on SDGs by providing quality and affordable health care and education, contributing to job generation and development of cities and communities, and mitigation of climate change through AC’s various businesses.
Joining the discussion as a panelist, United Nations Resident Coordinator Mr. Ola Almgren also took note of the Philippine private sector being ‘high up on the curve in relation to SDGs’, while yet again stressing the importance of partnerships between the public and private sectors in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Nordic Ambassadors’ Luncheon was organized in partnership with the EU- Philippines Business Network and EnergySmart, and together with event partner SEB Singapore and sponsors Salarium and Trends & Concepts.