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Closing the Gap between Impact and Ambition

As of 2023, we find ourselves with less than 7 years remaining to achieve the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. A study led by the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) involving 128 nations and 18 diverse sectors reveals that although CEOs recognize the value of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a more concerted effort and commitment is required by businesses to advance these global objectives and translate these aspirations into tangible positive impact. This urgency is intensified by escalating societal and environmental expectations. Consumers increasingly demand sustainable operational practices and principles. Thus, today's business leaders are upheld upon higher standards of leadership and are increasingly expected to navigate the balance between their public and private responsibilities. As business’ ambitions continue to grow alongside these standards, a crucial factor to close the gap between goals and impact is collaborativeness. Only by aligning all goals can GREAT impact be achieved.


Notably, 93% of CEOs face 10 or more co-current challenges, many of the which are interconnected and occur simultaneously. Additionally, unpredictable circumstances and market dynamics render historical data obsolete, necessitating a new approach for positive change. A critical concern lies in the compounded impact of emerging challenges, underscoring the fragility of our world today. A prime example is how climate change has exacerbated global disparities; intertwining with geopolitics that worsen food crises, while biodiversity loss escalates health risks. To effectively tackle these issues, leaders must transcend traditional business boundaries, venturing out of their comfort zones to ensure long-term sustainable impact.


While many business leaders are hopeful that the sustainability goals can be achieved by 2030, there remain lingering concerns. According to the UN’s Global Compact study, approximately 90% of CEOs voice concerns over the lack of governmental support for resilience in the face of global challenges. This is especially pronounced among small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which face hurdles like limited access to useful technology, affordable financing, and essential resources. These challenges, largely addressable through targeted policies and investments, are often hindered by the varying priorities and timelines of government agendas worldwide. The tendency of governmental decisions to align with election cycles, where policies are influenced by the short-term nature of political power, further complicates these issues. To properly set the backdrop and foundation for businesses and CEOs to engage with sustainability, policymakers must demonstrate a commitment that transcends short term political considerations and focus on long-term objectives. If governments were to prioritize long-term commitments and reduce short-term pressures on businesses, companies would be more confident in investing in long-term resilience strategies. The engagement of both business and government stakeholders is crucial. Without government involvement, corporate regulations may only achieve limited success. The absence of collaborative efforts between these two entities can diminish the efficacy of strategies and potentially discourage organizational efforts.

Business leaders are willing and capable of contributing to the SDGs. However, it is essential to understand that the SDGs are broad goals set to inspire efforts and action, and it is the responsibility of businesses and leaders to adapt them to their specific contexts. What is clear is that the solutions of the past will not suffice for the complex challenges of the future. To foster sustainability, strong economic performance, and resilience, it is imperative for the public and private sector to collaborate in achieving long-term goals.

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