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RBF 2018 to spur action on SDGs

This year's Responsible Business Forum will move beyond dialogue to focus on solutions and commitments that will help achieve the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.

If the world wants to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, partnerships have to be forged to mitigate climate change, stop human rights abuses, develop circular economies and provide lasting solutions to urbanisation and food insecurity, say organisers of this year’s Responsible Business Forum.

Taking place on 10 to 12 October at Marina Bay Sands, the forum will gather over 800 leaders in government, business and civil society to explore innovative ways to solve global problems related to five themes: climate action, human rights, circular economy, urbanisation and food and nutrition.

The forum will adopt a new “laboratory” format this year; participants will engage in discussions and formulate solutions through separate ‘workstreams’ held over the course of two days. Each workstream aims to integrate diverse perspectives from youth, gender, technology, business, finance and policy.

“Our new lab-style format will lead delegates through a process of reflection and ideation,” said Tony Gourlay, chief executive officer of Global Initiatives (GI), organiser of RBF 2018. “This will help them devise solutions collaboratively and commit to measurable action following the forum.”

Gourlay also referred to the special report on global warming recently published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), adding that it has placed the need to take urgent climate action in perspective. He said: “With negative environmental impacts expected sooner and harder than predicted, only bold commitments and transformative action today will address this threat.”

Released on Sunday in South Korea, the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C revealed that a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius could be reached within the next two decades if severe cuts to carbon emissions were not made. The report also warned that the costs and impacts of global warming will be more severe than expected, including worse storms, more dangerous heat waves, turbulent weather and major disruption to infrastructure and human migration patterns.

Every year since the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted, the RBF has brought together experts from across the globe to report progress on the SDGs and develop frameworks to measure performance and impact. This year’s speakers include Dante Pesce, chairperson of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Anna-Karin Jatfors, deputy regional director of UN Women and Bey Soo Khiang, chairman of Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL), one of the largest pulp and paper manufacturing companies in Asia.

“With negative environmental impacts expected sooner and harder than predicted, only bold commitments and transformative action today will address this threat.”

Tony Gourlay, chief executive officer, Global Initiatives

“Our interest is in finding practical, effective solutions that address the goals that are intrinsically aligned to our business,” Bey told Eco-Business. “The value of the SDGs is that they recognise the inter-dependencies of development across social, economic and environmental aspects so the reality is that all of the five forum areas are inter-related.”

Patricia Zurita, the chief executive of BirdLife International, who will be speaking on a panel on climate action, said she was looking forward to building new partnerships around the organisation’s Energy Task Force, a platform that helps government and businesses identify cost-effective and wildlife-friendly sites for renewable energy development. 

In a workshop on urbanisation that will be facilitated by Lauren Sorkin, regional director of Asia and the Pacific at 100 Resilient Cities, the organisation’s Jakarta team will be sharing local urban faming projects that aim to lessen the impact of higher rainfall driven by climate change. According to Sorkin, such interactive sessions push “thought leadership to practice leadership, addressing real time challenges in these cities by convening industry experts from public and private organisations.”

RBF 2018 is part of #Shape2030, a sustainability campaign started by GI to seek collaborative approaches to global problems and allow businesses and civil society the opportunity to share their visions for an equitable world by 2030.

According to Gourlay, the campaign aims to spur concrete action on the five key themes. He said: “Through this campaign, we hope to extend RBF 2018’s call to action to individuals and to demonstrate that sustainability is a shared responsibility. By pledging to change everyone will have a part to play in shifting the needle.”

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