Business for Peace Honouree Symposium

Speech by Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, 2 May 2016.

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Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here at the Honouree Symposium and to have the opportunity to meet past and present winners of the Business for Peace Award.

You have all understood why we must focus on both economic and social performance. ‘Businessworthy’ is the term used by the Business for Peace Foundation. It means that business can, and should, create both economic and social value. And that it should do so without harming the natural environment.

I would like to thank business leaders for taking the lead in the work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

As co-chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Development Goal Advocacy Group, I see the ‘Businessworthiness Pledge’ as a very important initiative.   

Last year, world leaders adopted two crucial agreements for advancing sustainable global development: the agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement. 175 world leaders signed the Paris Agreement in New York two weeks ago. 

The 17 goals adopted at the UN summit in September call for global action. The private sector has a very large stake in these goals. Some have described the SDGs as ‘a roadmap for good business growth for the next 15 years’. That strikes me as an inspiring description.     

The SDGs can serve as a catalyst for innovation and sustainable growth. Innovative companies are already aligning their business strategies with the new global goals. They are realising that they cannot simply carry on doing ‘business as usual’.

The private sector accounts for 60 % of the world’s GDP and 90 % of global job creation.

There is no doubt that progress towards achieving the SDGs will be faster if we have models of partnership in which the private sector is fully on board.

Let me give you some examples.

Partnerships with the private sector are key to succeeding in our efforts to achieve quality education for all.

Currently, 2.8 million Syrian children are out of school inside their country or in the region. Many more are experiencing learning difficulties because of the long-term stress they have suffered. Private sector involvement is crucial if we are to reach these children.

Norway and USAID have engaged in a partnership with the mobile network operator Orange, among others. The purpose of the partnership is to develop a smartphone app that can help Syrian children learn how to read and improve their psychosocial wellbeing. The initiative has attracted a lot of interest.

We have also seen successful public-private partnerships aimed at improving global maternal and child health, protecting the world’s rainforests and investing in clean energy.

I urge the private sector to put sustainability and the SDGs at the heart of business operations. The private sector can be the main engine for development. It is estimated that over 600 million new jobs need to be created by 2030, just to keep pace with the growth of the global working-age population. That’s around 40 million new jobs per year. For many countries, in order to be able to invest in sustainable development it will be necessary to improve tax collection, halt illicit financial flows, eliminate tax havens, and actively combat corruption. And it is vital that governments adopt investment-friendly policies.

We are facing several global challenges today. Millions of people have been displaced, and global warming is an issue of serious concern. We urgently need to tackle the problem of youth employment. Conflicts and unrest are directly affecting millions of children and young people – putting their education and aspirations on hold. But there is also hope. The link between peace and a sustainable business environment is indisputable. And I believe Paul Polman is right when he stresses that ‘there is no business case for enduring poverty’.

There will be countless opportunities in the future for business to have an impact. Aligning business strategies with the SDG framework will give companies a comparative advantage in markets where sustainable consumption is increasingly becoming the norm, rather than the exception.

Together, we must take action to overcome the challenges and grasp the opportunities when they arise. If we are to reach the SDGs, all of us must show real commitment and make the necessary investments.

Finally, I would like to congratulate Ms Beydoun, Dr Nkuene Riria and Mr Lærdal on being the winners of this year’s Business for Peace Award. You are outstanding examples of business leaders who inspire others.

At this moment, several prominent business leaders have signed the Pledge. These leaders represent a total turnover of USD 520 billion and over 1,5 million employees.

I would like to call on more global business leaders to sign the Pledge and to join us on our common journey to reach the Sustainable Development Goals. To quote the Global Opportunity Report 2016, ‘global goals are golden opportunities’.

Thank you.