The time for action is now
Tomás Sercovich, CEO, Business in the Community Ireland
Against the backdrop of this economic recovery, a perfect storm seems to be brewing. Ireland is quite likely to miss its 2020 EU climate change targets and significant fines appear to be inevitable. Trust in business is very low, while societal expectations towards business continue to rise, for example on how the new generations joining the workforce expect companies to align purpose and values with personal expectations. BlackRock, a US$ 1.7 trillion fund manager, in its 2018 letter to CEOs calls for companies to demonstrate purpose and social value. Social exclusion and inequality remain a major challenge, especially for marginalised groups. In this era of discontent, where mass and social media dominate the conversation, the fundamental question remains: What type of socio-economic recovery we want for Ireland? What will success therefore look like in 2030 and 2040?
We have a major framework to determine our country’s success: the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals trace the path for an inclusive, sustainable and responsible economy and society. The challenge is to drive business models and collective action towards the themes and expected outcomes of the Goals in a way that is coherent, transformational and impacts on our competitiveness.
Businesses in the Community Ireland, its member companies and UCD as knowledge partner, have been working on a platform that responds to transition towards a sustainable and inclusive economy. On 18th May, we launched “The Leaders’ Group on Sustainability”, to drive collective action on fundamental areas where business can lead and generate transformational change towards sustainable and responsible business models. The group comprises, to date, 26 companies that have achieved the externally verified “Business Working Responsibly” Mark, representing a wide diversity of sectors. The CEO-led platform has empowered collective action on three key areas that align to several Sustainable Development Goals:
- The transition towards a low carbon economy
- The worker and workplace of the future
- The role of business in promoting social cohesion.
The initiatives that form The Leaders’ Group on Sustainability aim at challenging companies to re-think their business models, look beyond the business as usual scenarios and consider how collective action can drive meaningful change. The Leaders’ Group on Sustainability has committed to lead by example and to inspire action across the business community, society and government. An initial demonstration of this work is a Low Carbon Pledge, where 21 companies have publicly committed to achieve a reduction on CO2 emissions intensity of 50% by 2030. An annual report will track the achievements of these signatories and the more that will join us soon. Intensity reductions of CO2 emissions allow us to prepare for a growing economy with a low carbon output.
Collective action is a complex challenge for companies. But we must promote collaborative platforms aligned with the philosophy of the Sustainable Development Goals of “Leaving no one behind.” It is through collective action across the business community that we will empower our generation to be the one that can help steer the low carbon, inclusive and sustainable economy that we need. Ireland has an enormous potential to lead this agenda. Business has the skills and convening power to develop solutions for the sustainable development challenges we face.
We are privileged at Business in the Community Ireland to be driving this collective agenda towards a sustainable, inclusive and responsible Ireland. Shall we do this together? Join our call for action! The time for action is now.