It’s time to put people first

June 12, 2020 by  
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It’s time to put people first Lise Kingo Fri, 06/12/2020 – 02:00 Editor’s note: Lise Kingo is stepping down as CEO and executive director effective June 16. The organization’s new leader, Sanda Ojiambo, begins June 17. Seventy-five years ago, the United Nations set out to put the world on a path to recovery, pledging “never again” to allow the horrors of two devastating world wars. The premise was that a peaceful and just world had to be built on the equal worth, rights and freedoms for every human being. The same universal values and principles which laid the foundation when, at the turn of the millennium, then-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan initiated a “global compact” between the United Nations and business leaders to “give a human face to the global market.”  In launching the United Nations Global Compact, Annan reminded us that we all have an active choice to take — between a global market driven by calculation and short-term profit and one that has a human face. Between a world that condemns a quarter of the human race to starvation and squalor, and one that offers everyone at least a chance of prosperity, in a healthy environment. Between a selfish free-for-all in which we ignore the fate of the losers, and a future in which the strong and successful accept their responsibilities, showing global vision and leadership. Failing to do so, he cautioned, would make the global economy fragile and vulnerable to the backlash of all the isms — protectionism, populism, nationalism, ethnic chauvinism and so forth.  Have we lost our way? As we set out to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the U.N. and 20th anniversary of the U.N. Global Compact, we must look around the world at what is happening in front of our eyes — the obvious failure to deliver on those most fundamental values and principles that bind us all together. With Annan’s words ringing true in our ears, we must ask ourselves — have we lost our way? COVID-19 has exposed the fragile nature of our progress. The hard truth is that our failure to create a more socially just world has worsened the current crisis and could hamper our ability to recover faster. More than half of the general population globally finds that capitalism in its current form does not work for them. Even before the pandemic, social inequalities were widening for more than 70 percent of the global population. One thing was that economies had bounced back to the levels recorded before the 2008 financial crisis, but in reality, economic growth and labor productivity were mainly carried by low-paid, low-quality and low-security jobs, with more than half the world’s population — 4 billion people — not covered by any social safety net.   Those same people have been left disproportionately vulnerable to COVID-19. Nearly half of the global workforce in the informal sector, totaling 1.6 billion workers, are in imminent danger of having their livelihoods destroyed. The 49 million people thrown back into extreme poverty, wiping out two decades of progress. The half of the global population without access to essential health services. It is no surprise, then, that frustrations are growing. The meaningless and brutal killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police has further illuminated deep-seated inequalities rooted in the endemic and structural racism that persists today. It has sparked a wave of serious introspection among business leaders and heads of state across the world. No one is excused from the discussion.  Inequalities and racism, of course, are not isolated to one country. This year’s Edelman Trust Barometer made for sober reading. Its January report pointed out that more than half of the general population globally finds that capitalism in its current form does not work for them. And amidst the current health and socio-economic crises brought on by COVID-19, additional polling found that the pandemic had exacerbated the sense of social injustice. Close to two-thirds of respondents agreed that those with less education, less money and fewer resources are being unfairly burdened with most of the suffering, risk of illness and need to sacrifice due to the pandemic.  It’s time to raise SDG ambition In launching the UN Global Compact, Annan was clear that without the active commitment and support of business, universal values would remain little more than fine words — documents whose anniversaries we can celebrate and give speeches about, but with limited impact on the lives of ordinary people. COVID-19 has demonstrated the cost of turning the blind eye to obvious injustices. With less than 4,000 days to get our collective plan of action for people, planet and prosperity on track, now it is time we deliver for all. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will not be delivered through incremental improvements to business as usual. Progress to date is a testament to that. With the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement as our lighthouse, and the Ten Principles as our guide, business must undergo a radical business-model transformation that can lead to a new normal — one where the equal worth, rights and freedoms of people always come first in any business decision. Don’t underestimate the power of your example, your voice and your footprint in the world. Business leaders of the future need to understand that the key to stable markets is social equality. Beyond the challenge of COVID-19, many other crises loom large. From climate change, biodiversity loss and the erosion of planetary resources — this could just be the tip of the iceberg. That’s why we need business leaders to use this moment to become social activists and rethink their role in the world and their “reason for being.” Not only for the good of society but indeed the future of their own business. By deeply integrating “people, planet and prosperity for all” across corporate purpose and values, governance and strategy, business plans and performance management, business leaders can lead the way in the Decade of Action, making a step-change towards SDG ambition. Let’s choose to be social activists Now we need the most senior leaders — the CEOs, their executive teams and the boards — to become activists for social change, within their own organizations, in their daily lives and beyond. As I prepare to depart the U.N. Global Compact after five years, I want to leave you with this message: Don’t underestimate the power of your example, your voice and your footprint in the world. Leadership is about having the courage to be the change — indeed, to insist that change happens.  In the words of Annan, “To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to go there.” As we move into the Decade of Action, let us never lose sight of our mission to be united in the business of a better world, one that leaves no person behind. Pull Quote More than half of the general population globally finds that capitalism in its current form does not work for them. Don’t underestimate the power of your example, your voice and your footprint in the world. Topics Corporate Strategy Leadership Equity & Inclusion Environmental Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Lise Kingo, former CEO of the U.N. Global Compact Courtesy of Joel S Photo/U.N. Global Compact Close Authorship

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It’s time to put people first

5 golden rules for investors on good governance and safer chemicals

April 30, 2018 by  
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Heed the example of Lumber Liquidators.

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5 golden rules for investors on good governance and safer chemicals

5 golden rules for investors on good governance and safer chemicals

April 30, 2018 by  
Filed under Business, Green

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Heed the example of Lumber Liquidators.

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5 golden rules for investors on good governance and safer chemicals

Can mini-grids solve sustainable energy access?

April 30, 2018 by  
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Community energy and mini-grids are promising models for reducing global energy poverty, but the nascent sector is still far from proven.

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Can mini-grids solve sustainable energy access?

Raw Milk Purveyors Arrested, Bail Set at $123,000

August 4, 2011 by  
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A menacing herd. Image: USDA via Flickr (Creative Commons) In yet another example of wasted resources and misplaced priorities police in LA have raided Rawesome Foods, arresting three people in connection with the distribution of raw milk products without the proper permits. … Read the full story on TreeHugger

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Raw Milk Purveyors Arrested, Bail Set at $123,000

Peacock That Left Zoo for 5th Avenue Flies Home

August 4, 2011 by  
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Photo: Trisha Shears under a Creative Commons license . Public relations-wise, this one is a mixed bag for New York City’s Central Park Zoo. On Tuesday, a peacock left the zoo for an apartment on 5th Avenue (meaning the building’s window ledge). And while the bird didn’t seem too happy with life in the park, it seems it didn’t appreciate the Upper East Side much, either. Yesterday morning, the peacock flew back to its home of its own accord…. Read the full story on TreeHugger

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Peacock That Left Zoo for 5th Avenue Flies Home

The Lowdown on Recycling Juice, Milk Cartons

October 18, 2010 by  
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When it comes to recycling, not all boxes are the same.

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The Lowdown on Recycling Juice, Milk Cartons

Could Household Fuel Cell Technology Catch on in the U.S.?

October 15, 2010 by  
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Harnessing hydrogen and oxygen as a power source in your home? That technology is actually possible and currently exists, and it is starting to create buzz as an efficient and clean source of  household energy generation. Known as a household fuel…

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Could Household Fuel Cell Technology Catch on in the U.S.?

More Than Jobs, We’ve Outsourced Our Carbon Emissions

March 9, 2010 by  
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image: Carnegie Institution We’ve written about the phenomenon of outsourced carbon emissions a number of times, with the example of perhaps up to one third of China’s emissions coming from manufacturing goods destined for consumption abroad being most prominent. Well, a new study by scientists at the Carnegie Institution adds some more data to our our understanding of this issue:..

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More Than Jobs, We’ve Outsourced Our Carbon Emissions

Veasyble: Folding Paper and Polyethylene Portable Privacy

February 2, 2010 by  
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Veasyble is “a project based on three words: isolation, intimacy and ornament. It consists of a set of wearable objects that can be converted into means of isolation, to create a personal intimacy in any environment.” Yet another example of designers testing new notions of privacy and mobility. ..

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Veasyble: Folding Paper and Polyethylene Portable Privacy

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