In 2000, world leaders adopted a declaration in pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to help eradicate poverty and hunger, achieve universal education, reduce child mortality, promote gender equity, improve maternal health, combat diseases, and ensure environmental sustainability. While significant progress has been made toward these goals, much needs to be accomplished to meet the 2015 targets only five short years away.
We hear a lot about what governments, international organizations and non-governmental organizations are doing to help reach these goals, but what about the private sector? Business and industry are key partners in the UN’s effort to help achieve the MDGs, and this September they will have the chance to discuss their accomplishments and contributions, as well as the remaining challenges and obstacles.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has invited CEOs to engage with world leaders and UN agency heads this September to review private sector contributions toward achieving the MDGs, and key challenges that remain. I have been helping organize UNEP’s participation, including engaging with CEOs who show a substantial commitment to environmental sustainability in their corporate programs.
A number of companies are taking measures to reduce their carbon footprint and promote environmental sustainability; for example, using power from renewable energy sources, reducing their use of hazardous chemicals in manufacturing and production processes, switching to electric or biofuel transportation fleets, implementing employee telecommuting programs, and promoting waste minimization, water conservation and recycling. Environmentally sustainable measures also contribute to many of the other MDGs—for example, reducing poverty and hunger through new green jobs, and improving health and combating diseases through access to clean water.
By promoting and investing in environmentally sustainable practices, businesses can preserve the environmental resources they depend upon and contribute to the MDGs, as well as benefit from increased cost savings, more efficient production processes, decreased risk, and improved stakeholder engagement and public image.