More than ever before, businesses are helping shape the global sustainability agenda and developing solutions to some of humanity’s most pressing problems, from energy and food security, to climate-change resilience and poverty reduction. Lise Kingo, Executive Director of the U.N. Global Compact, tells us why 2015 was a watershed year for sustainable development and how business can support the transformation.

Why was 2015 so important for global sustainability?

2015 will be seen as a seismic shift in terms of sustainable business. Never before in our history has the world community been so aligned and so determined to create a more sustainable world. AllLise Kingo 193 national world leaders gathered in September to adopt the UN’s 2030 Development Agenda, of which the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a very important part. 

In December, they gathered again in Paris to reach a global agreement on climate. It’s incredibly encouraging, particularly as it was about time our generation got our act together to try hand over our planet in a better state to the next generation.

The Compact has networked and discussed with a broad range of companies, including its 12,500 members and partners, for their input on the SDGs. We fed that back to the U.N. system, because unless business is part of implementing the new goals, they will not become a reality.

Why are companies coming on board the sustainability agenda?

More and more companies are realizing they live in a new reality, where they have to have a strong brand that signals their responsibility. They need to do this to attract new talent, maintain their license to operate, preserve good reputation, and attract more investors - as more and more investors are interested in a company’s sustainability profile. But if we are to implement the SDGs and the Paris agreement, we need to reach out many  more companies. I would especially like the Global Compact to make better contact with small and medium sized companies around the world, and include them in a global movement for responsible business.

I’d like companies such as Novozymes to be role models for how to implement the SDGs; to take a look across the 17 Goals and use them as inspiration for new innovation, new business growth, and to show that these global priorities can be transformed into good business.

How do we bring about real, sustainable change?

We need radical breakthroughs with innovation. We can’t solve global challenges doing things the way we always have. To do that, we must find ways to involve young people in decision making processes, not only in companies but also in institutions like the U.N. Young people will be the ones living with the consequences of climate change, poor environment, poor human rights, and they’re saying - ‘this is going to be my problem.’ And we need to speak about sustainability in a simple, engaging and positive way, including with new channels and social media.

The U.N. Global Compact is the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative. It calls on companies to align their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principlesin the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption, and take action in support of the UN SDGs.

Novozymes has been a Global Compact member since 2000, and is an active player in the SDGs and Caring for Climate processes. The Compact recognized Novozymes’ Head of Corporate Sustainability as a pioneer for sustainable business strategies, in June 2016.

Words: Devapriyo Das