Denmark’s general election is approaching, and this has prompted a broad group of senior executives and professors to make a united appeal to the country’s next government.

25-04-19 DI Business News

Opinion: SDGs and sustainability should be key issue for Denmark’s next government

26 CEOs, board chairs and professors urge Denmark’s next government to put sustainability and the UN’s SDGs at the centre of its political platform.

It was a historic moment when the 193 nations of the UN adopted the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals back in September 2015. Never before had all governments agreed on a common direction for a sustainable future, and with this agreement all 193 nations also committed to contributing to achieve these goals by 2030.

The goals are highly ambitious and must be met with equally ambitious action. To abolish hunger and poverty. To reduce inequality throughout the world.  To ensure clean drinking water, education, work, equality, good health and proper sanitation for everyone. To combat climate change and build sustainable cities and communities. To protect fauna and preserve biodiversity on land in and in water. And when it comes to climate change, it’s likely that we’ve only seen the very tip of the iceberg.

Everything suggests that the consequences of climate change could prove devastating for the world’s ecosystems, economies and living standards. Climate change is predicted to constitute one of the greatest global challenges ever.

Private companies, NGOs, researchers and organisations have welcomed the SDGs and many now consider them fundamental to their activities. Companies formulate new visions and set ambitious and binding targets for a more sustainable world. This helps spur innovation, partnerships, new technological solutions and strengthened competitiveness.

If we are to achieve the SDGs, however, it requires action from consumers and companies, but also systematic solutions to very complex challenges. That is why companies are in great need of political support. 26 Danish CEOs, board chairs and professors

Soon Denmark will hold its next general election, and this presents an opportunity to set an ambitious course for the country. Our appeal is therefore for the SDGs to be included as a central part of the next government’s political platform. Let us together have the courage and determination to formulate an ambitious vision for how Denmark – both at home and abroad – can create changes that limit the consumption of resources and reduce environmental impact while simultaneously encouraging social and economic growth.

When countries are measured as to how they’re doing in terms of reaching the SDGs, Denmark comes out in the very top. And Danish companies are known for having sustainability as their strong suit. We are in the global lead in areas such as green energy, water technology, health, food and energy-efficient products.

But it’s not enough. 

Although we as a nation can bask in our good results, and although we as business leaders can rejoice in the global demand for our products, it is a fact that no country – not even Denmark – comes anywhere close to achieving all of the SDGs. 

We therefore all need to look at how far away we are from our targets and find new ways of running our society so that it is better equipped to meet the world’s major challenges. 26 Danish CEOs, board chairs and professors

In addition to its environmental strengths, Denmark has a high level of trust and strong links between public and private sectors. We are a society characterised by openness and dialogue, which often crystallises in the form of effective partnerships between employers, unions, NGOs and public authorities.

Regardless of political disagreements and diverging standpoints, Denmark is a country of consensus that invests in common welfare and is among the most equal societies in the world. We have created a society that is more or less in balance, socially and environmentally, and at the same time we are among the wealthiest populations in the world. This is admirable, and it is a unique strength that we must utilise properly by proving that we are able come together across political divides, business and civil society to tackle the world’s greatest challenges.

Just think if we could write whole new story about Denmark together! A story rooted in our experience with the Danish model in a consensus democracy. A story of a nation that dares to think in new, sustainable directions while maintaining its prosperity. It is possible. But it requires that everyone be prepared to work together across political divides.

As leaders in civil society and business, we are dedicated to contributing to sustainable development. This focus can and must also be reflected politically. It ought to be possible to use annual public procurements worth DKK 300 billion to renew public supplies and services while supporting the competitiveness of Danish business in relation to the SDGs. Just think if we had a unified plan for public procurement that was linked to the SDGs. This could lead to far more systematical initiatives, such as energy-optimisation of thousands of public buildings. Such an initiative would benefit the climate, save money and challenge companies to develop technologies that strengthen international competitiveness.

Another factor is legislation. Laws create common frameworks and uniform trade conditions both nationally and internationally, and in some cases there is a need to insert new clauses to stimulate a more sustainable environment. Danes are European champions in waste creation per capita. This is because consumers don’t have proper incentives or opportunities to get rid of waste, or because municipal waste schemes are incongruous and don’t promote recycling and circular business models.

As executives in the private sector we are held accountable each day for our company’s bottom line. That is and remains a key part of the job. What is new is that we are also increasingly being held accountable by market forces for our positive or negative impact on the path to reaching the SDGs. Business is on its way into a new reality in which there are multiple bottom lines, and that is unequivocally a good thing for the future of our planet. We are proud of taking on a share of that responsibility.

Our appeal is therefore: Let us recognise the fact that the reality we have grown up is fundamentally changing. Together, we must look with new eyes at how to tackle this together as a society.

This requires a united, unambiguous and ambitious political commitment, and no matter which parties come to determine Denmark’s political platform later this year, we urge the new government to put sustainable development at its centre.

The op-ed was published in Jyllands-Posten Friday, 19 April 2019


The op-ed was written by the 26 members of DI’s and Global Compact’s SDG High Level Advisory Board.