ESCAP Sustainable Business Network (ESBN) for the 2020 Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development on Thursday pledged to put people and planet before profit to ensure that businesses are sustainable and do not lead to a depletion or pollution of the earth’s resources.
"To accelerate wider business action, we encourage Governments to adopt policies that correct for externalities of business operations, including by putting a price on carbon, while incentivizing social and inclusive business models," Spokesperson of ESBN Executive Council and Chairman of the ESBN Taskforce on Disaster and Climate Risk Reduction Asif Ibrahim.
In a statement, he said they will ensure that throughout business operations and will do their utmost to care for employees and suppliers, including respecting human rights throughout our operations as outlined in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and in line with United Nations universal declarations and relevant ILO conventions.
As members of the Executive Council of the ESCAP Sustainable Business Network, Asif said they are deeply concerned with the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on workers and enterprises, in particular micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), and emphasize the need to help those most in need, such as informal workers, women, migrants, refugees and older persons.
As a global pandemic, COVID-19 has severely impacted Asia and the Pacific.
In a region that relies heavily on exports and tourism, lockdowns and related closures have disrupted business and supply chains, putting many out of jobs, and risking increasing the already stark inequalities in the region, the statement reads.
"We are concerned that even before the onset of the pandemic, the region was not on track to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030," Asif said.
In particular, he said, are alarmed about the climate-related goals (SDG13) and sustainable consumption and production (SDG12), where the region is moving in the wrong direction, as well as provision of clean water and sanitation (SDG6), and ensuring decent work and economic growth (SDG8).
"We underscore the need to accelerate our efforts to achieve the SDGs and focus on building back better from the Covid-19 crisis," Asif said.
He said they believe the crisis offers opportunities to strengthen the role of - and collaboration with - business in building a more sustainable Asia-Pacific region.
As members of the ESCAP Sustainable Business Network, Asif said they pledged to work with the government and the United Nations to help accelerate the delivery of the SDGs through enhancing our own sustainability, including by adhering to internationally recognized sets of principles and standards of responsible business conduct like the United Nations Global Compact, and setting company-wide carbon emission reduction targets.
"We will also work separately and collectively to promote increased sustainability and resilience among the wider business community in the region," he said.
As the COVID-19 crisis has shown that digital tools and platforms are critical in enhancing resilience, they pledged to work to increase the knowledge and spread of digital tools in the region, including solutions for more effective and efficient supply chains, finance, sales and back-office functions, to enable more flexible production and delivery of work, including working from home where possible.
"As the region is already the most disaster prone in the world, we will also continue to work with ESCAP to emphasize the need for resilience and disaster risk reduction, including through public-private partnerships for tsunami monitoring," Asif said.