Speaking at the Global Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on the world’s business community to play its full role in helping to achieve the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which seeks to eliminate poverty, hunger and a raft of social ills, all within 15 years.

“I ask all the CEOs here today to help us. Your advocacy and example can drive action to achieve a life of dignity for all people,” he told business leaders at an event on the Global Compact, a 15-year-old UN initiative to encourage businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies.

“You recognize that responsible businesses have enormous power to create decent jobs, open access to education and basic services, unlock energy solutions and end discrimination. I count on you to drive global progress,” said the Secretary-General.

Mr. Ban stressed that the UN has shown that multilateralism works when it comes to setting ambitious plans, citing Agenda 2030 and December’s Paris Agreement on climate change as “visionary and planetary,” with no time to lose.

“Our planet and its people are suffering too much. This year has to be the moment for turning global promises into reality. Governments must take the lead with decisive steps. At the same time, businesses can provide essential solutions and resources that put our world on a more sustainable path,” he said.

“I call Agenda 2030 our ‘declaration of interdependence.’ The world is coming to recognize more and more that problems in one country reverberate in another. A crash in one market can drive a crisis around the world. That is why it is so important to make the most of our collective strengths.”

Mr. Ban highlighted the vital need to engage with more companies to reach the Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ensuring that every one of those companies is committed to universal values and principles.

“You are already members of the UN Global Compact. You understand that doing business responsibly is the first step for any company that wants to contribute to sustainability,” he added.

“The Global Compact is already starting to translate the SDGs into business action and innovation. It has 85 Global Compact Local Networks and signatories in more than 160 countries. Right there, I see enormous opportunity to mobilize action.”

The SDGs build on the earlier eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which sought by 2015: to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.

But progress was uneven across regions and countries, leaving millions of people behind, especially the poorest and those disadvantaged due to sex, age, disability, ethnicity or geographic location. This is where the SDGs come in.

They stress everything from zero poverty, zero hunger, good health, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, and affordable clean energy, to decent work and economic growth, innovation, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities, responsible consumption, climate action, unpolluted oceans and land, and partnerships to achieve the goals.

UN Photo/Rick Bajornas