By Christian Frutiger
Head of Global Public Affairs
Going to New York City in late September to attend the UN General Assembly (UNGA) week is always a whirlwind of activity. Heads of states, business leaders and civil society are gathering to discuss the world’s most challenging issues.
Commitments are announced, coalitions are launched and the seeds of new partnerships and collaborations are sown. The UN venues are scattered across the City, security is tight and the traffic impossible. I usually walk, or run, to get from one meeting to another without unreasonable delays. I did so again this year. Lots of kudos from my phone’s fitness app!
Collectively, we have agreed on the UN Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs). Now, we must accelerate progress towards achieving them. It sounds like a dream, but it’s a dream worth pursuing, and with this in mind here are my four takeaways from the week:
1. Without young people, we will not achieve the Global Goals
Today’s young people are more connected, dynamic and engaged than ever. They will play a crucial role in achieving the SDGs. Over a third of the 169 SDG targets highlight the role of youth, and 20 targets across six SDGs have a specific focus on young people.
At last year’s UNGA week, Nestlé launched its Global Youth Initiative to help 10 million young people worldwide access economic opportunities by 2030. Through our business activities, we want to support young people to become the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial farmers.
On this journey, we joined forces with Ashoka and the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) to help social entrepreneurs in Africa jump-start businesses and attract investors. We’re also participating in the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth led by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). This platform is a hub to catalyse partnerships to promote youth employment worldwide - and make it happen!
2. Action on Climate Change is key to our survival
Climate change will continue to impact human life and prosperity. It also affects our ability to grow food. Agriculture is a heavy producer of greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time one of its first victims. Worldwide, farmers are struggling to keep up with shifting weather patterns and increasingly unpredictable water supplies. Meanwhile the world's population will reach 9.1 billion by 2050, 34 percent higher than today.
We must use the planet’s resources wisely and draw on our global influence to effect positive change. At all stages of the product lifecycle, Nestlé strives to use natural resources efficiently, favoring the use of sustainably managed renewable resources, and targeting zero waste. For example, we recently announced to accelerate our no deforestation commitment by implementing 100% satellite monitoring coverage of our global palm oil supply chains.
3. Ensuring sustainable agriculture and eliminating waste is vital for our food supply
In addition to climate change, changes in consumption patterns and dietary preferences for animal protein are putting pressure on feed and fodder. Agriculture must therefore produce more food of a better quality while using less resources. Good agricultural practices are critical.
At Nestlé, we work directly with over 700,000 farmers through several thousand agricultural extension workers and contractors, tackling resource efficiency, farm economics and reducing post-harvest losses. Up to 30% of food is lost at farm level in many emerging economies. Similar quantities are wasted at the consumer end in industrialised nations. In short, producing more food with less resources and eliminating food loss and waste is key to addressing the world’s future food needs.
4. Respecting and protecting human rights are essential to sustainable development
Now more than ever, we need to remain vigilant to ensure that business and governments respect internationally recognized human rights standards. Many of the 2030 Agenda’s commitments are inherently linked to UN Member States’ human rights obligations. Without these basics, the Global Goals will not be achieved.
It is in our hands to make a differenceNelson Mandela
Earlier this week, I represented Nestlé at an ILO-UN meeting to officially join the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC). In line, with our commitment to enhance gender balance at all levels of our workforce, Nestlé has pledged to work to achieve equal pay for its employees.
The ILO identifies the establishment of an adequate living wage as one of the conditions for universal and lasting peace based on social justice. This is precisely what we provide to each of our 323,000 employees worldwide.
At the EPIC meeting I met our colleagues from Starbucks, who made a similar pledge. I am thrilled with our new partnership, and what we will be able to achieve together.
Now I’m back home in Switzerland, I feel exhausted yet energized. Tributes were paid this week at the UN to two outstanding world leaders, Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan. Both have been role models for many of us. If we want to achieve the Global Goals, we all have to demonstrate this kind of leadership – whether we work in business, government, farming or are Nobel prize winners.
“It is in our hands to make a difference.” (Nelson Mandela)
Christian leads Nestlé’s Global Public Affairs Team and the Company’s efforts in Creating Shared Value both for its shareholders and society.Follow Christian on LinkedIn