February 10, 2021

The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has devastated livelihoods, disrupted supply chains, deepened inequalities, and plunged global economy into a severe recession. While global leaders focus primarily on curbing the immediate health crisis, they also look at the Sustainable Development Goals as a comprehensive framework needed for rebuilding the global economy in a more efficient, sustainable, and just manner.

Today the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development and the International Chamber of Commerce will host 350 delegates from 44 countries for a conversation with Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Sanda Ojiambo, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, and some remarkable business leaders on concrete initiatives to deliver on the SDGs and the importance of collective action if we are to secure a sustainable future for the planet.

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Over the last twelve months, Covid-19 has demonstrated just how inter-dependent our world is today. An issue in one part of the system can quickly escalate and disrupt the whole system if the right resilience mechanisms aren’t in place. Healthcare systems, economies, communities, families, trade relations, education, transport and consumer life have all been put under immense strain in the last year, to an extent which would have been unthinkable before the Covid-19 crisis.

To recover and build back better therefore requires a integrated approach rather than a stream of single initiatives. A policy framework that connects all the different parts of the system and provides an aligned plan of action that everyone can buy into and support. And we don’t need to create a new framework for this - rather we should adopt the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs) and ensure they are delivered by 2030 as we have committed.

The SDGs incorporate every element of the system we now need to engage to help us solve the issues in front of us. As we contemplate the reach of the pandemic, and its ability to bite back following an outbreak anywhere, we know we cannot afford to leave anyone behind.

The ‘Levelling Up’ and ‘Build Back Better’ agendas are ideal policy vehicles to help integrate the SDGs into the national communication strategy and national economic recovery plan and ensure the outcome we deliver is one that is more inclusive, sustainable and greener. Such a framework would be an ideal tool to guide the newly launched Build Back Better Council in its task to oversee implementation of the plan. 

 The SDG framework will also ensure that our efforts at national level are fully aligned with international efforts to do the same and create trade opportunities with other countries working on aligned goals. We may not solve all problems by 2030, but enough can be done in ten years to shift us from our current trajectory.

 When the SDGs were launched in 2015, they very much felt like a government-led agenda with governments calling on business to engage. Today it feels like the reverse, with global companies out in front showing real leadership backed by concrete strategies and plans to deliver on the SDGs.

The highest profile example has to be the pharma sector and how GSK, Astrazeneca and their counterparts have delivered a Covid vaccine to market in less than a year. The achievement is unprecedented and could change the game in tackling global disease in the future.

In some cases, the changes companies are making are radical with a change in business philosophy and model such as BP going ‘net zero’. In other cases, companies are shifting approach across all their services like HSBC wholesale switching to sustainable finance lending. For others, it’s about adaptation by removing non-sustainable plastics and products that damage the planet such as Iceland and Tesco. For all, success has meant a ‘whole value chain approach’ to ensure no one gets left behind.

As more and more companies put the SDG’s and net zero at the heart of their business planning, this is the opportunity for government to show leadership and support and align with the momentum being generated by business. It is no longer a case of government calling on business to act but the reverse, businesses now calling on government to lead and support.

This is the reason for the ‘Global Goals in the Heart of Recovery’ business and parliamentary event on 10 February 2021. It’s a call to action to engage and ensure we use the SDG framework to deliver better outcomes for the future from the crisis’s we now face.


Rt Hon Lord Jack McConnell                             Paul Drechsler CBE

Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group                   Chair, ICC United Kingdom

on the UN Global Goals for Sustainable



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