Leadership
UN Secretary-General Calls on Businesses to Help Finance Sustainable Development

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday called on the corporate community “to be our partners in supporting and financing this agenda” at a global conference on financing for development.

The International Business Forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was tasked with finding resources for a 17-point, 15-year UN plan on meeting human needs, protecting the planet and ending poverty. These Sustainable Development Goals will be up for final approval at the UN General Assembly in September.

Ban Ki-moon urged private sector leaders — including CEOs and institutional investors — to be “part of the solution,” and to consider new commitments for investment in sustainable development. He noted that the UN Global Compact has rallied business behind these pressing issues and, with over 8,000 companies and 4,000 non-business stakeholders in 170 countries, it can “mobilize a global force of businesses for good.”

More than 400 CEOs and business leaders heard addresses from H.E. Sam Kahamba Kutesa, President of the United Nations General Assembly; H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia; Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group; and former basketball star Dikembe Mutombo, Chairman and President of the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation.

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The Addis Ababa Action Agenda under negotiation represents a global consensus on a working relationship between private, philanthropic and public sectors, on addressing social justice and sustainable production and consumption, and on closing a yawning infrastructure gap, the UN says.

However, the meeting takes place in a period of low expectations for global economic growth rates, weakened international trade, declining investment flows to developing countries, and persistent problems regarding debt, including in developed countries, noted both in the United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects, mid-year update, and the recent update to the World Economic Outlook of the International Monetary Fund.

A report of an intergovernmental committee of experts released last year said that lack of capital is not the issue. It cited estimates of “robust” annual global savings from private and public sources of $22 trillion, and of total global financial assets of about $220 trillion. But constraints on government budgets indicate a crucial role for the private sector and responsible business practices in helping to mobilize resources for pressing global needs.

And this may pose a business opportunity for forward-thinking companies. Private impact investment funds — specifically private equity and venture capital funds — that pursue social impact objectives have recorded financial returns in line with a comparative universe of funds that only pursue financial returns, according to a new analysis from global investment advisor Cambridge Associates and the Global Impact Investing Network.

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