By Jaya Ramachandran
BERLIN | CANNES | NEW YORK (IDN) – Nearly six months before Ban Ki-moon relinquishes his post after ten years as UN Secretary-General, his unrelenting efforts underway since January to engage corporate leaders and entrepreneurs for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are beginning to bear fruit.
Speaking at the Lions Festival of Creativity, Cannes, on June 24, Ban said the world’s six biggest advertising and marketing services groups – Dentsu, Havas, IPG, Omnicom, Publicis and WPP – had decided to launch a first-of-its-kind initiative, the Common Ground initiative.
The initiative seeks “to beat ultra-competitors, poverty, inequality and injustice” by supporting a 15-year anti-poverty, pro-planet action plan, adopted by 193 Member States in September 2015.
The 2030 Agenda requires a serious partnership for humanity, and there is perhaps no brand with a more important purpose in the world than the SDG ‘ring,’ Ban said.
“The Olympic rings stand for the highest standard in sports. The SDG ring stands for the highest standards in social commitment, human well-being and global solidarity,” Ban added.
“The six biggest communications businesses in the world have risen to what some may have said was an impossible test: they have agreed to put their differences aside in support of a joint unique and exciting initiative to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs,” Ban said.
“In the short term, we want the 2030 Agenda to be known by 2 billion people. We want to mobilize one million people as change agents. Help us reach far and wide,” the UN chief told the International Festival of Creativity – a gathering of professionals working in the fields of advertising, marketing and innovative communications.
“This is Cannes – so I have come with a pitch,” Ban said. “I know all of you have tremendous power to shape opinions. You are master storytellers. And I want you to help us create the biggest campaign ever for humanity.”
The 2030 Agenda, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is the biggest anti-poverty, pro-planet action plan ever adopted by the United Nations, and it is for everyone, everywhere, he explained.
“If I had to give it a tagline, it’s this: ‘We are the first generation that can end global poverty. We are the last generation that can address climate change before it is too late,’” he said, stressing that none of the SDGs can be achieved by anyone alone.
Ban asked the participants to help make sure the SDGs are the business of all businesses – and the business of all people, inspire all, especially young people and women, and find the best ways to tell the story.
“Your ingenuity, innovation and powers of persuasion are second to none. Help us transform a complex and abstract agenda into a personal and emotional story about how we can build a better world,” he said.
“The timing is right for this type of innovation. . . We are in the first year of implementing a 15-year plan. Getting it on track at the beginning is critical to achieving our goals at the end. The communications industry is famous for its creativity and energy. The United Nations fully supports channelling this dynamism towards answering the greatest challenges facing our planet and humanity,” the UN Chief said.
The new collaboration, Common Ground, takes off immediately, with two immediate objectives: to come together to help to address the Sustainable Development Goals and to encourage other industries to follow suit and find their own common ground.
Kick-starting the Common Ground programme will be a global advertising campaign, with space donated by key business and thought-leadership publications.
In addition, the six companies have agreed to provide a development fund for each of the winning ideas in the Cannes Young Lions competition, which this year was devoted solely to the SDGs. These funds, a first for the Young Lions Contest, will be used to develop the winning concepts and provide them the strongest possible chance of being put into practice.
In a joint statement, Tadashi Ishii, Chief Executive Officer and President of Dentsu; Yannick Bolloré, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Havas; Michael Roth, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of IPG; John Wren, President and Chief Executive Officer of Omnicom; Maurice Lévy, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Publicis Groupe; and Sir Martin Sorrell, founder and Chief Executive Officer of WPP, said: “The Common Ground initiative recognises that the global issues the UN has identified transcend commercial rivalry.”
By working in partnership to support the SDGs, the Six want to demonstrate that even fierce competitors can set aside their differences in order to serve a wider common interest. “We hope others in and beyond our own business decide to do the same.”
Two days ahead of the announcement of the Common Ground initiative, Ban rallied corporate leaders gathered for a summit in New York to focus on key areas required to reach a new era of sustainability, including responsible practices, transformative partnerships, breakthrough innovation and targeted investment.
In his remarks to the 2016 UN Global Compact Leaders Summit, Ban stressed that achieving the aims of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development would require finding new ways of living that would end the suffering, discrimination and lack of opportunity for billions of people around the world.
As such, he called on all stakeholders – from world leaders and chief executives, to educators and philanthropists, and across all sectors and industries – to work together in broader and deeper partnerships.
The UN Global Compact , the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, supports companies to do business responsibly by aligning their strategies and operations with Ten Principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption; and to take strategic actions to advance broader societal goals, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with an emphasis on collaboration and innovation.
The Leaders Summit on June 22-23 aimed to jump-start business action everywhere on the Goals. To that end, the Global Compact unveiled a multi-year strategy to drive business awareness and activity that supports the achievement of the Goals by 2030.
Key elements of the new ‘Making Global Goals Local Business’ strategy include an annual Leaders Summit, the SDG Pioneers programme, Local Network SDG Action Plans, UN-business partnerships, and impact reporting.
Recalling the adoption last year of both the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on climate change, Ban in his remarks said sustainable development could be separated from fighting the impacts of climate change, and called for a holistic development model will take climate impact and fragile ecosystems into account, and would benefit both people and the planet.
Noting that trillions of dollars will be invested in infrastructure in the coming years, he said that the Paris Agreement and the SDGs give the private sector an unprecedented opportunity to create clean-energy, climate-resilient, sustainable economies.
“We are at a decisive moment in the shift to sustainable and inclusive markets,” continued the Secretary-General, noting that the first step in this regard would be to mobilize the global business community as never before. “All businesses, everywhere, can and should play a role in improving our world. That starts with integrity – doing business right,” he said. . [IDN-InDepthNews – 24 June 2016]
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.
Photo: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets with winners of the Cannes Young Lions competition in France. Credit; UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
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