Business for Peace: Welcome Address
Dear Award winners and Honourees,
ladies and gentlemen,
I'm going to start with a slightly different perspective than what we have seen so far. The renowned Canadian professor of psychology Robert Hare suggests that corporations have the characteristics of psychopaths...
They only display a calculated superficial image of themselves. They are grandiose and self-centred. Corporations are manipulative "predators" utilizing others for their own benefit. They lack empathy and remorse – and they are driven by short term profits, without long term goals and behave irresponsibly, putting others at risk...
I would lovingly disagree. He clearly has not been to the Business for Peace roundtable.
Corporations are made up of people, with our strengths, compassion and competences, but also our shortcomings and flaws. Not all decisions people make are positive and constructive at all times. But the only thing that can move the world forward are decisions by people. And luckily, there are plenty of good decisions in the private sector. In fact, I don’t think we can solve the challenges of today without Business being a part of the solution. And individuals, like yourselves, have proven that long term commitments to society are an inherent part of your business.
Last fall, the new Sustainable Development Goals were agreed upon by the world leaders. A bold commitment to eradicate poverty and hunger, fight inequality and injustice, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change and protecting oceans and forests.
A daunting task.
These ambitious goals should be reached while the world’s population will continue to grow rapidly – with the parallel rise in the demand for food and energy. At the same time, our natural resources are limited and climate changes puts additional pressure on the use of these.
However, there are nevertheless good reasons to be optimistic. Several positive developments indicate that we actually can reach these ambitious goals:
- The progress made over the last 15 years on all eight Millennium Development Goals is a testament to the capabilities we have when we join forces.
- Technological developments pave the way for new solutions in sustainable food production and better resource utilization.
- New and greener energy is developed as we speak, and the awareness of human impact on nature is growing worldwide.
This is not news to any of you in this room. According to a PwC report on business and SDGs published last year, 71 % of corporations said they were already planning on how they would engage with the SDGs and 90% of citizens say it’s important for business to sign up to the SDGs.
Through responsible operations, new business models, investments, innovation and technology; private sector will be key to solving our common challenges.
I have seen this with my own eyes.
Through the rewarding work as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme, I have experienced the progress made in poverty alleviation in developing countries. Eradicating poverty is SDG number 1, and considered to be one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. The number of people living in extreme poverty has dropped by more than half over the last decades, but there are still too many struggling for the most basic human needs.
The most important contribution to poverty alleviation is economic growth, led by the private sector. However, net economic growth alone cannot ensure that poverty is alleviated for the poorest. Pro-poor, inclusive growth is needed to ensure that the staggering economic inequalities in the world are addressed.
In addition to the normative challenge inequality poses; it is economically irresponsible to avoid addressing this issue according to the IMF. Imagine how the market base will expand as billions of poor people substantially increase their purchasing power. Imagine the amount of creativity and entrepreneurship that will be unleashed when millions of poor people don't have to use all their time and resources just to survive.
Today, through the roundtable discussions that will be conducted here at Sentralen, you will dive into these matters. You will discuss the possibilities and responsibilities that rest with you, to work towards each one of the 17 goals.
Thank you for being individuals, leaders and change-makers, who see your role as one crucial part of the puzzle, needed to solve the most serious challenges the world face.
"The human factor" is often the explanation of why accidents could happen, or why systems fail. To me, "the human factor" is what gives me hope. Knowing that there is a person, or a team of people, making all the decisions that in the end adds up to the future of humanity.
That is why the Business for Peace award is an important prize: Recognizing individual leaders who are positively changing the face of business, and eradicating poverty and making the planet sustainable for generations to come.
This year, it is the 10th Business for Peace Summit, and the 6th time the award is given to extraordinary individuals – many of whom are gathered today at this summit.
I am impressed with what you have achieved – and most of all, I am impressed by each one of you here today, committed to being a part of the solution.