What the SDGs mean to these global leaders

At the recent Ecosperity conference, we asked global leaders from business and civic society what the Sustainable Development Goals mean to them, and what they are doing to realise the agenda. Here's what they said.

German lady and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The Sustainable Development Goals. Which SDG resonates with you? Image: Stand Up Campaign, CC BY-ND 2.0

Why is gender equality the most important Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to Unilever’s Paul Polman? How will SDG 9—industry, innovation and infrastructure—change how the United Nations approaches development? How can businesses help achieve the SDGs, and why should they? 

At this year’s Ecosperity conference in Singapore, Eco-Business caught up with a number of the world’s leaders from business and civil society to find out what the SDGs mean to them, and how they are helping to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The SDGS, launched in 2015, are a set of 17 goals rolled out by the United Nations that aim to eradicate poverty, raise living standards and protect the environment by 2030.

Watch on to learn which SDGs inspire resonate with these leaders and how they’re turning inspiration to action.

Sunny Verghese, Co-Founder and Group Chief Executive Officer, Olam International

“[My children] will live in a more harmonious world.” 



Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer, Unilever

“The challenges that we have - climate change, poverty alleviation, social inclusion, decent jobs, are of such magnitude that none of us can do it alone. So more than ever, we need to work together and make one plus one equal 11.”



Helen Hai, Goodwill Ambassador, United Nations Industrial Development Organization

“For me, it is the first time infrastructure and industrialisation are on the agenda of the United Nations. Which marks the United Nations’ move from traditional humanitarian development, to actually help(ing) those countries for their economic transformation.”



Manish Sabharwal, Chairman and Co-Founder, TeamLease Services

“If India doesn’t reduce poverty, the world won’t reduce poverty. Education is probably the most sustainable way for poverty reduction ever invented by mankind.”



Marco Lambertini, Director General, World Wide Fund for Nature 

“The ocean has been underestimated, underrated, taken for granted, more than anything else for centuries.”


Dave Chen, Chairman and Founder, Equilibrium Capital

“We think that if we can couple [the SDGs for zero hunger and affordable housing], we’re going to build a very, very resilient asset that will keep being profitable for years and years to come.”


Dennis Thomsen, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Fluidic Energy

“[The SDGs are] a statement of principles that transcends religions and outlines right from wrong going forward for any business leader”.

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