World Benchmarking Alliance launched during UN GA High Level Week

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the milestones
marking the path towards the future we want. Collectively, they
provide one of the most ambitious yet achievable agendas the
world has ever set. Delivering these goals and their targets will help to ensure all people can live in dignity and collectively succeed in preserving our environment.
On Thursday the 21st of September in the appropriate surroundings of the wonderful New York Library the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) was launched.
It is an initiative of AVIVA, the Index Initiative, the United Nations Foundation and the Business and Sustainable Development Commission.
It has already a growing number of allies including WWF, IDB Latin American Bank, Nordea, eat, Investec, WBCSD, and the Global Foundation.
The WBA will rank companies based on their sustainability performance and contributions towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
As the CEO of AVIAV said in his opening remarks it is appropriate to be in the New York Library where people can borrow books for free. The WBA will make the information on companies also publicly available and free of charge.
Benchmarks provide a powerful incentive for companies to improve their sustainability performance and help to track progress, improve understanding and promote dialogue. Benchmarks will be designed through a multi-stakeholder process to ensure they reflect societal expectations.
This will be a powerful and potentially transformative way to achieve this is to produce international league tables that measure and compare the performance of companies on the SDGs.  The expectation is this will contribute to companies competing to be the best. Aviva CEO, Mark Wilson said:
“Our idea is simple. We turn the SDGs into a corporate competitive sport. We draw up transparent data on performance towards meeting the SDGs, and we rank companies according to how well they are doing. This will motivate a race to the top and is what the proposed World Benchmarking Alliance is all about,”
Over the next nine months, in preparation hopefully in time for the UN Finance for Development Forum at the end of April 2018, the WBA founding partners will organize a global consultation to explore the opportunity and potential for using the benchmarks to measure, motivate, and reward business action on the SDGs.
AVIVA’s CEO had made a call at the 2015 UN General Assembly for the UN to change the international rules for the financial system to support sustainability. AVIVA had been arguing since 2011 that companies that are listed on Stock Exchanges should have to produce their Environment Social and Governance reports as they do their financial reports and if they do not explain why not. That was nearly agreed to at Rio+20 with a big push by South Africa, Brazil, Denmark and France.
The Business and Sustainable Development Commission (BSDC) in its report in January this year supported the concept and creation of corporate Global Goal benchmarks and the World Benchmarking Alliance. It also argued that there were $12 trillion economic opportunity for business if they were advancing sustainable development and an estimated some 380 million new jobs by 2030.
At the launch Ministers from the governments helping with AVIVA to fund the initiative spoke those being the UK, Dutch and Danish governments
Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, The Netherlands said: “Civil society, investors and governments need to collectively voice what we expect from industry, and then work together with industry to unlock the full potential of the private sector. Initiatives like the WBA enable us to embrace a more productive and sustainable approach that benefits all of us.”
As we left the New York Library and passed the rooms full of books – some of us reflected on UNF’s Deputy Executive Director and former US Ambassador for the negotiations of the SDGs Elizabeth Cousens when she said that she and others believed that this week those attending the UN GA High-Level Segment were looking for big ideas. This she said was a big idea.

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