Global firms with operations in Europe are set to joining forces to become major contributors to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The ‘Sustainable Business Exchange’, launched this week in Brussels, Belgium at a conference hosted by CSR Europe in cooperation with Huawei, will help companies turn circular and inclusive approaches into sustainable economic growth.
Initiated by CSR Europe, the European Business Network for Corporate Social Responsibility, the campaign empowers companies to take action and adopt sustainable growth models. It fosters business engagement with communities, cities and regions, as well as with each other, to contribute to the global sustainability agenda and make sustainability a driver for growth in Europe.
“Through CSR Europe’s new programme, we aim to leverage the impact of over 10,000 companies in our network in order to address common challenges, promote the adoption of transformative business models and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals,” said CSR Europe’s Executive Director Stefan Crets. “This cannot be done purely by the private sector, and so we will also engage stakeholders from civil society, governments and academia to increase this impact by working together. It is time for Europe to take action to address societal and sustainability issues, and we believe that the SDGs offer a common language in order to achieve this.”
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, announced last year together with the Paris Agreement, were at the centre of discussions at the 2016 edition of the Sustainability & Innovation Conference Series where the ‘Sustainable Business Exchange’ was announced. Conference participants looked at how to effectively put these goals into practice. Global ICT leader Huawei, co-organiser of the conference, welcomed the initiative and stressed the importance of creating shared value to achieve the global goals. Technologies have significantly increased resource utilisation efficiency and will continue to play a meaningful role to drive forward the sustainable development agenda. Goals around education, health, sustainable cities and communities as well as climate change particularly resonate, and the company is determined to play its part to achieve its ambitious objectives.
“To live up to our responsibility as a leading provider of ICT solutions, we have designed a sustainability management system that mainstreams CSR concerns into everything we do,” underscored Alan Aicken, VP of the Procurement Department and Chief Sustainability Officer of Global Supplier Sustainability at Huawei. “Geared towards achieving the global sustainability objectives spelled out by the UN, and relying on constant improvement, sharing expertise and working together with public and private partners, it dovetails with the approach of the new ‘Sustainable Business Exchange’. We look forward to further stepping up our cooperation with European partners through this new framework.”
In practice, companies can join the ‘Sustainable Business Exchange’ in two ways:
- A learning network will help them embrace the circular economy, rethink the value chain, foster innovative partnerships and business models, as well as sustainable consumption and production.
- An SDG Incubator will facilitate pilot projects between companies, civil society and governments, to drive business contribution to the SDGs and tackle common challenges.
At European level, efforts to address the e-skills challenge are a top priority. Huawei has taken action to help close this gap together with European partner universities through its international training programme, Seeds for the Future. In this programme, the company selects top students for a study trip to China to get exposure to the latest technologies and be immersed in a global work environment. In Europe, 27 countries are presently involved and more than 700 young people have participated since the programme’s European launch in 2011. By 2020, over 2500 European students will benefit from the programme.
CSR Europe, through its network of around 50 corporate members and 45 National CSR organisations, gathers over 10 000 companies, and acts as a platform for those businesses looking to enhance sustainable growth and positively contribute to society. In its mission to bring the CSR agenda forward, CSR Europe goes beyond European borders and cooperates with CSR organisations in other regions across the world.