The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out the agenda for people, planet and prosperity through to 2030.
The SDGs were adopted by all 193 states at the United Nations in September 2015. The 17 global goals aim to stimulate action in areas of critical importance to humanity and the environment. RELX is a signatory to the UN Global Compact, which uses the SDGs to chart business participation in achieving these aims by 2030.
The sixth RELX SDG Inspiration Day took place on Wednesday 24 June 2020, in partnership with the UN Global Compact UK Network, the UN Global Compact Network India, Ban Ki-moon Centre, Global Citizen, the Responsible Media Forum and Tortoise Media. The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a virtual event using an innovative technology, Hopin, which allowed for simultaneous main stage presentations and other offerings. The virus’ enormous social and economic consequences were also reflected in the day’s title: ‘Creating the World We Want: One Decade, 17 Goals, Now and Post-Pandemic’. Nearly 400 representatives from business, NGOs, academia and civil society took part in engaging, interactive, collaborative sessions throughout the day.
The keynote was given by African stateswoman, Graça Machel, co-founder of The Elders with her late husband Nelson Mandela, and a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy Group. She told the online audience that the pandemic has reinforced the importance of partnerships between businesses, governments and civil society to find solutions to humanity’s problems. “COVID-19 came suddenly and we were shaken to the core because we felt no-one will be left out of the threat,” she said. “But the positive benefit is that we managed to come together, we saw governments working with other governments, and the private sector putting in resources and working harder to produce what is necessary for prevention.” Her message was clear: “Goodwill […] can transform our world.”
Other consequences of the pandemic were analysed during a conversation between Dr Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet, and Dr Annie Sparrow, Associate Professor of Population Health, Science and Policy at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and advisor to the Director-General of the World Health Organisation. These scientific experts discussed the impacts of the current pandemic on those living in conflict and post-conflict zones, its impact on less developed countries, the different responses of governments around the world, and why BAME communities are more at-risk from COVID-19. The session built on themes explored in RELX’s podcast series on COVID-19 and the SDGs.
The SDG Inspiration Day was hosted by Dr Shola Mos Shogbabimu, who is a lawyer, political and women’s rights activist, and founder of the Women in Leadership publication. Dr Márcia Balisciano, RELX’s Global Head of Corporate Responsibility, gave a welcome address and also hosted panel discussion on the future of education and the role for governments, which included Irina Bokova, the first woman Director-General of UNESCO; Michael Sheldrick, Co-Founder and Chief Policy & Government Relations Officer at Global Citizen; and Cristian-Silviu Buşoi, Member of the European Parliament and Chair of the Industry Research and Energy Committee.
Winners of the WE Empower SDG Challenge celebrating women entrepreneurs included: Christelle Kwizera founder of Water Access Rwanda, to provide reliable and affordable access to piped safe water in rural and semi-urban communities; Habiba Ali, founder of Nigerian company Sosai, which brings renewable energy technologies to the most rural of users; and Shimrit Perkol-Finkel, founder of ECOncrete, an Israeli company creating durable and environmentally-sensitive concrete which harnesses natural processes to enhance growth of carbon-absorbing marine life on coastal infrastructure.
Dr. Nicky Black, a Board member with the Institute for Human Rights and Business hosted a panel on how to advance SDG 5, Gender Equality, featuring thought-leaders Monika Froehler, CEO of the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens; Sello Hatang, Chief Executive, Nelson Mandela Foundation; and Akanksha Sharma, Head - CSR & Sustainability, Sterlite Technologies Foundation.
Throughout the day, experts and business leaders led breakout sessions in the SDG Café, drilling the role for businesses in tackling specific SDGs. Speakers included Dr Elizabeth Pollitzer, Director of Portia on SDG 5 (gender equality); Dr Lewis Collins, Editor-in-Chief of One Earth SDG 15 (life on land); and Griet Cattaert, Head of Labour Rights at the UN Global Compact, SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth). Griet warned that COVID-19 could worsen the challenging global labour situation, including unemployment, lack of contracts for employees and employees in poverty and child labour. “Responsible business is more important than ever since the crisis,” she said.
The day also featured the first RELX SDG customer awards. Recipients were: Scottish Power, a Reed Exhibition’s customer, for integrating the SDGs into business strategy, and the first integrated energy company in the UK to generate 100% green electricity; the Asian Development Bank in the Philippines, nominated by LexisNexis Legal & Professional, for its Law and Policy Reform programme; the University of Southern Denmark, Aurora Universities Network and the University of Auckland – The Netherlands and New Zealand, a consortium that have worked with Elsevier on an SDG Matching Tool available on the RELX SDG Resource Centre to refine the complex search queries needed to identify research into each SDG; and Standard Chartered Bank South Africa, a customer of LexisNexis Risk Solutions, which runs a Correspondent Banking Academy to help raise standards in the international banking departments of banks in South Africa and neighbouring countries.
Overall, the RELX SDG Inspiration Day, gave hope that, although the pandemic has created significant barriers to meeting the SDGs by 2030, global collaboration is our best bet for overcoming them.
For the full agenda and speaker list, please click here.