BEIJING, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer global companies new opportunities for innovation and growth amid a sluggish world economy, according to a senior UN official.
SDGs offer inspiration for companies and help them think about their business in a new way to address global challenges, Lise Kingo, executive director of UN Global Compact, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the 2016 China Summit on Achieving SDGs on Monday.
A few industries are struggling with existing business models, such as the banking sector and the soft drink and food industries, Kingo said. If they can experiment with changes according to the 17 SDGs, such as reducing poverty and hunger, they may find new opportunities such as promoting inclusive finance and "green food," according to Kingo.
She said she was delighted to see that the SDGs are reflected in China's 13th Five-Year Plan, which prioritizes poverty eradication and sustainable growth. Kingo added that many Chinese firms have joined the UN Global Compact Network China and are dedicated to running business responsibly.
Kingo said she was particularly impressed by the pioneering practices of the State Grid Corporation of China, which proposed the development of a worldwide, high voltage energy transmission network called the Global Energy Internet to share renewable energy from around the world.
"That's a good example of innovative thinking that well goes beyond the national borders and contributes to global sustainable growth," she said.
She said the presence of large companies and their seriousness in promoting sustainable business is remarkable.
"It's important that large companies take responsible actions, because they are not only large themselves, but also big suppliers that might impact the practice of many other companies in other countries," Kingo said.
However, it appears easier for privately owned companies to have strong sustainable strategies, as public companies are driven more by short-term shareholder interests than long-term economic value creation, according to Kingo.
She pointed out that profits and sustainable development are not necessarily contradictory.
She said more companies are operating with three bottom lines: financial, social and environmental. They release an integrated report to cover all three targets each year, explain how they are connected and demonstrate how the company has added value to society, she said.
"More and more company heads know they need to do more than generate a financial surplus, but also build a responsible brand and long-term credibility. It's quite dangerous to only focus on short-term profit maximization as the company will go wrong sooner or later," Kingo said.