From risk to opportunity: Turning the UN Sustainable Development Goals into local business initiatives

Leading businesses are already taking steps to turn the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into local business initiatives. That was the clear message at a historic event in New York this week, where 1,000 top executives gathered for the UN Global Compact Leadership Summit. DNV GL’s Chief Group Development Officer, David Walker, presented concrete ways companies can harness global risks to create business value through the Global Opportunity Report.

The UN SDGs.
More than 1,000 business leaders attended the summit.
Marianne Haahr and David Walker presenting to the summit.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, officially opened the event by stating “The world cannot continue on the current course. The Sustainable Development Goals represent an unprecedented opportunity to create a sustainable future. Solutions must involve everyone and we must work together – across sectors and industries. Business must align with the SDGs and the goal of limiting global temperature rise below 2 degrees.”

Business is heeding the call. According to a survey presented by the UN Global Compact and Accenture, 87% of CEOs believe the SDGs provide a window of opportunity to rethink approaches to sustainable value creation, and 80% believe demonstrating a commitment to societal purpose is a differentiator within their industry.

The second day of the event was themed ‘Making global goals local business’. DNV GL’s Chief Group Development Officer David Walker and Global Opportunity Network Project Director Marianne Haahr led the session on turning world risks into opportunities.

“The Global Opportunity Report represents a new mind-set for business, where we demonstrate that business can and should be seen as part of the solution to major global challenges,” said Walker. “This is also why we link each of the opportunities to the Sustainable Development Goals”.

Six ‘opportunity sessions’ followed, where executives explored business opportunities and solutions related to five global risks, including climate change, poverty and rising inequality, and escalating conflict and instability. Their output from these sessions will feed directly into the next Global Opportunity Report, to be launched in January 2017. A Global Opportunity Lab was also held in connection with the summit, where a group of innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders pitched ideas for the next Global Opportunity Report.

The event concluded with the business leaders present endorsing the Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for shaping corporate strategies.  

DNV GL and the UN Global Compact

DNV GL has been a United Nations Global Compact member since 2003, and remains actively committed to incorporating the ten principles in the areas of human rights, labour standards, environmental performance and anti-corruption in our business strategy and day-to-day operations.

In 2015 DNV GL assessed the effect of the first 15 years of the UN Global Compact in the report IMPACT: Transforming Business, Changing the World.

Further reading


DNV - Sustainability

How can DNV help your business transition towards sustainability?


The Global Opportunity Report

A new mind-set for business: turning global risks into global opportunities


CEOs Endorse the SDGs as Strategic Framework


The Sustainable Development Goals