April 26, 2019
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Your excellency Mr. Zandanshatar, Parliament Speaker,  

Esteemed members of Mongolia’s business community,

A very good morning to you all. I am delighted to be here, and to see leaders from so many industries. Because if we want to achieve a more sustainable world – a world capable of sustaining life and leaving no one behind – then we need to talk business.

So, here’s my pitch for the Sustainable Development Goals, and why companies should invest in them.

The SDGs aim to end poverty, while ensuring the survival of our planet, by the year 2030. And already, these goals are rapidly changing how we live, consume, produce and invest.

Companies have the power, the know-how, the finance and I should add the obligation to step up investments for the SDGs such as in renewable energy, water conservation, sustainable fashion and rural livelihoods.

This is important for social and planetary reasons, but it is also increasingly, imperative for business survival, with clear economic reasons to back the SDGs.

A recent report by The Network for Greening Financial Services, comprising 18 central banks, warns that: “climate change will affect the global economy and so the financial system that supports it. The financial risks it presents are…system-wide and potentially irreversible, if not addressed”.

From Mongolia, to Mozambique, extreme weather fueled by climate change is growing, along with the financial risks this brings. According to reinsurance company, Swiss Re, last year’s natural disasters fueled by climate change cost the global economy 155 billion US dollars. Growing droughts, wildfires and hurricanes are threatening land, water and food resources, including basic commodities, like wheat. The resulting resource scarcities could trigger significant commodity price volatility in future – something import-reliant Mongolia cannot afford.

Faced with these unprecedented challenges, a ‘business-as-usual’ approach is not enough. Because in this unchartered territory, business is no longer ‘usual.’ Nor can we prevent the potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change with a public-funds mentality.

It’s estimated that meeting the SDGs will require annual investments of 5 to 7 trillion US dollars. And that developing countries may face an annual gap of 2.5 trillion.[1]   By UN calculations, two thirds of the funds and technology needed to meet the SDGs must come from companies. This calls for fundamental changes in how business is done. And for companies that embrace change, there are tremendous upsides.  

Responsible businesses make business sense. Because the environment and economy are not in competition; rather, the former enables the latter. Besides reducing their future financial risks, responsible businesses enhance their bottom line by cutting costs, such as through energy savings, or car-pooling. They protect their supply chains by safeguarding the resources needed for future growth and by motivating and retaining employees; and they open up new markets by boosting a brand’s image, marketing efforts and sales.

According to the World Economic Forum, companies focused on eco-innovations are growing by roughly 15 percent a year, while many of their rivals remain flat. So, at this critical stage in Mongolia’s recovery, creating sustainable products and projects is in fact one of the fastest ways to grow your business, and keep growing in future. Because sustainability is the future.

To support sustainable investments, governments and development partners must engage the private sector. Public-private partnerships are one of the most powerful ways to strengthen that collaboration and ensure the viability of joint ventures, if the right regulations are in place.  

The SDGs can also provide a universal framework for investment. Traditional investors, banks and pension fund holders, among others, have the ability to finance the SDGs, to the tune of trillions of dollars. So, we must also transform finance.

Development finance is evolving worldwide, and as part of that shift, the Government of Mongolia is exploring new opportunities to mobilise and manage both public and private resources. This is key as it carries out the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility, and in the years that follow.

Policymakers must also strike a balance between removing barriers to investment on the one hand, and protecting public interests, through regulation on the other.

I am delighted to see that the Government of Mongolia has taken a crucial step to improving the legal and policy context needed for the private sector to support the SDGs. The proposed law package on promoting the private sector will institutionalize corporate engagement in sustainable development, benefiting the public, and companies.

The UN stands ready to support all stakeholders in partnerships for the SDGs. We look forward to hearing companies’ ideas for cooperation, as well as feedback on what other support they need to work with Mongolia towards them.

We have just over ten years left, to avert the worst effects of climate change. So, these steps must be taken now.

The SDGs are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to business leaders to create a new legacy; to be remembered not simply for growth, but for changing the quality of that growth – growth that gives customers better choices; that includes everyone and that can sustain life on earth.

We have the tools. And we have the money. All we need is the will.

Thank you all, and looking forward for fruitful discssions!
Alles Gute!


 

[1] https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/wir2014_en.pdf

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