Against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, a climate emergency and worldwide volatility, the 77th session of the UN General Assembly convened from 13 September to 26 September in New York. This year’s theme, “A watershed moment: transformative solutions to interlocking challenges”, acknowledged the common roots of crises such as Covid-19, climate change and conflict—and the need for solutions that advance global sustainability and resilience.
Addressing the global food crisis alongside the UN Secretary General
On 22 September, ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO represented global business in the UN Secretary General’s Global Crisis Response Group meeting, alongside heads of state and international organisations. In opening the discussions, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres paid tribute to the pivotal role played by ICC in ideating and shaping the UN’s flagship Black Sea Initiative to restore grain and fertiliser exports from Ukraine and Russia.
Mr Guterres said: “I want to thank John Denton who provided me with papers and the ideas that allowed me to negotiate with Putin and Zelenskyy something that was meaningful to address the global food crisis. It was his papers that provided me with the scientific capacity to make proposals that would make sense.”
Participants at the meeting included: the Chancellor of Germany, the Prime Ministers of Bangladesh, Barbados, Senegal and Spain – as well as the Foreign Ministers of Argentina, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. Also in attendance were the heads of key multilateral organisations including the WTO, FAO, UNEP, UNICEF, WFP and the AfDB.
Speaking at the session, Mr Denton made a direct appeal to G20 leaders to take action to ensure that all emerging markets have the fiscal space needed to weather the serious cost-of-living and doing-business crisis we now face – a business imperative to avoid long-term scarring of local economies already weakened by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Driving momentum at the SDG Business Forum
On 21 September, the 7th annual SDG Business Forum convened leaders from business and government, together with the heads of United Nations agencies, key international organisations, and civil society groups to delve into the role business will play in delivering on the 2030 Agenda. Co-hosted by ICC, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) and the UN Global Compact, the forum offered an opportunity to drive momentum towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – and to leverage the power of the private sector to contribute towards international priorities.
Speaking at the event, Mr Denton said: “The purpose here is to reduce inequality, to actually enable the world to operate. Businesses do not prosper when economies collapse. It is in our interest to continue looking to the long term.“
As one of the most prestigious High-Level gatherings of business leaders at the United Nations, this year’s virtual forum provided a platform for meaningful dialogue on the role of the private sector in co-creating lasting solutions to multiple crises in the short term and building a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient future while effectively managing our collective impact on global environmental commons.
Tackling plastics pollution with UNEP
On 19 September, ICC held a forum on Plastics Pollution that provided an opportunity for an open exchange between UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, Inger Anderson, and a group of CEOs and C-suite executives representing businesses across the value chain of plastics. They included Polymateria, Nestlé, Coca-Cola, LEGO, Orestia, Novozymes, Walmart, Amazon, Tricolos, Ragna-Sells and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
In addition to supporting a multistakeholder approach to addressing plastics pollution, the roundtable provided an opportunity for Ms Anderson to share insights regarding the UN process to develop a legally binding instrument and key opportunities for business engagement.
Ms Anderson said: “The instrument can only work if business takes the lead.”
Business leaders present also had the opportunity to share views regarding innovative business models to transition from a linear to a circular plastics economy and highlight existing efforts and potential solutions for systems change across the plastics life cycle.
Speaking at the roundtable, ICC Chair Maria Fernanda Garza reaffirmed ICC’s commitment to engaging its network to leverage existing experience and expertise that will be needed to effect systems change, at scale, across entire value chains. Ms Garza also shared her SME perspective as CEO of Orestia.
Joining forces with UNICEF to advance the Global Goals
ICC and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced a new partnership to address the impact of crises on children and advance the Sustainable Development Goals. On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, ICC Chair Maria Fernanda Garza and UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) outlining a commitment to increase concerted action to help rebuild societies and economies and mobilise support for children affected by climate change, conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ms Garza said: “With the pandemic, rising geopolitical tensions, and now the war in Ukraine derailing hard-won progress towards sustainable development goals, we’re proud to strengthen our cooperation with UNICEF to start putting words into action. Fully mobilising the global business community is essential to turning the aspirations of the global goals into concrete results around the world.”
Drawing from the strength of their respective global networks, ICC and UNICEF will develop joint guidance targeted at ICC members on areas identified in the joint Call to Action and Business Statement. This includes influencing the development of policies that support families, including in the workplace.