On February 2nd the Global Compact Network Canada (GCNC), hosted an interactive session on the Sustainable Development Goals and a presentation of SDG survey results carried out by GCNC in the latter part of 2015. The interactive session saw participation from four Canadian experts Marc Yves Bertin, Director General International Economic Policy for Global Affairs Canada, Steve Pappajohn, Business Development Advisor for Native American Resource Partners, Mark Osterman Vice President of Environment & Sustainability for SNC-Lavalin and Carmen Turner, Leader Sustainability for Teck Resources to speak about GCNC’s Sustainable Development Goals Survey as well as the implications of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the private sector.
Helle Bank Jorgensen, President of the GCNC, started the session by introducing the SDGs that were adopted by all 193 member states of the United Nations in September 2015. The significant involvement from the private sector in their development is one thing that differentiates them from their predecessor – the Millennium Development Goals. Helle then presented the highly interesting results of the GCNC’s SDG survey. It was conducted to raise awareness of the goals among the Canadian private sector and to paint a picture as to which SDGs were seen as priorities by Canadian businesses and organizations. Some of the main highlights of the survey are as follows:
- 60% of respondents see “Clean Energy” as one of the top priorities for Canada.
- Over 50% ranked “Decent Work and Economic Growth” as on of the most important SDGs for their business.
- 60% ranked “Climate Action” as one of the top priorities in Canada, the world and the own business.
- Despite this, there are relatively few existing Climate Action initiatives within organizations.
- 50% of respondents ranked “Zero Poverty” or “No Hunger” as the number 1 issue to tackle in the world.
- The goals that were ranked in the bottom of nearly every category were “Life below Water” (SDG14) and “Life on Land” (SDG15), as well as “Partnerships for the Goals” (SDG17).
See the full survey results in the survey report »
Marc Yves Bertin, Global Affairs Canada, emphasized the importance of public private partnerships and the key role the private sector has to play in achieving the SDGs. Marc noted that there is little movement in investing in developing countries because of a perception of risk from the private sector. Marc then spoke about the new platform Convergence, which will help to overcome these obstacles by creating a space for blended finance.
Steve Pappajohn, Native American Resource Partners, further highlighted the importance of partnerships by giving examples of partnerships between indigenous communities and the private sector that advance human rights and environmental protection. Steve urged the need of a material change in how business is done to achieve the SDGs. He ended on a positive note by emphasizing “the Canadian spirit is really conducive to working in partnerships” and that the “role of innovative partnerships has a broad impact on the SDGs”.
Mark Osterman, SNC-Lavalin, focused on the importance of local benefits of foreign projects. Specifically he remarked “Sustainable Development has a different meaning to everyone – in developed countries we focus on sustainable part, but in developing countries the focus lies on development side.” According to Mark, local benefits of projects need to be maximized through working with local supply chains and investing in local infrastructure. Mark underlined his remarks by examples such as one of SNC-Lavalin’s initiatives – the Local Resource Development Imitative (LRDI) that creates shared value by using local know-how.
Carmen Turner, Teck Resources, highlighted that using the SDGs in the company’s materiality processes and identifying alignment with its corporate sustainability strategy has helped to understand the broader societal expectations and identify priorities. Incorporating sustainability into the core strategy of the organization will have a longer lasting effect than short-term initiatives. Carmen further spoke about the SDGs as a good tool to compare the company’s strategy, both in terms of understanding if being on the right path as well as prioritizing issues and aligning activities.
The variety of questions during the Q&A session proved the large interest of Canadian organizations in the SDGs. The discussion focused on aspects such as accountability and reporting, and opportunities the SDGs present to investors and the private sector as a whole. Overall the Q&A session furthered the discussion had during the webinar, shining light on ways for companies to move forward into incorporating the Sustainable Development Goals and providing an insightful wrap up of the session.
If you would like to learn more about the SDGs and engage in future events and opportunities to take action, pleasecontact the GCNC Team.