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09 Jun 2020

Leaders call on PM for socially just and green recovery from COVID-19

A letter sent to the Prime Minister on Tuesday 9th June calls on his government to use the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to frame Covid-19 recovery plans.

The letter references a statement made by the Prime Minister at the Financing for Development event on 28 May where he called for "fairer, greener and more resilient global economy" after Covid-19. He said that we must ‘work together to get shared goals back on track including [...] the Sustainable Development Goals’.

The letter supports this and states ‘we do not need to reinvent frameworks or agreements, we can instead use the global goals as the basis for a socially just and green recovery in the UK and abroad’.

Early evidence from the Business and Sustainable Development Commission showed that if implemented the SDGs create at least US$12tn in business opportunities in just 60 market hotspots and estimates this could be 2-3 times bigger across the whole economy.

The letter has been coordinated by the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) and the United Nations Global Compact Network UK (GCN UK).

Signatories include: leaders of Leonard Cheshire, Natwest Group, Nestle UK & Ireland, Linklaters, Clifford Chance, The Body Shop, SSE, HSBC, Standard Life Aberdeen, Mott MacDonald and Unilever; filmmaker Richard Curtis; the Mayor of Bristol; Chairman of the Local Government Association and Dr Mya-Rose Craig (aka Birdgirl).

The letter states that the ‘SDGs provide an internationally agreed framework, which also works at national, regional and local level, alongside and reinforcing existing plans and commitments.’

It asks that the SDGs be used ‘used to consolidate and future-proof [recovery] plans’ and goes on to recommend that they are used to:

  1. Prioritise the most vulnerable in our society and level-up regional and societal inequalities
  2. Build coherent policies for a healthy planet and to aid the transition to net zero
  3. Unite all sectors behind a plan to build a stronger and more resilient economy

The SDGs are part of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and give a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”. There are 17 Goals at its centre, encompassing climate action, education and health.

Unfortunately, the UKSSD Measuring Up report, found gaps in policy or inadequate performance for 57% of targets, and 15% where there is little to no policy in place to address it, or where performance is poor. It anticipates that this situation will be worsened by the societal and economic impacts of Covid-19.

Richard Curtis, UN Sustainable Development Goals Advocate, film writer, director and co-founder of Project Everyone

“The COVID crisis has shown more than ever that we must work together to secure a better future. The Global Goals are a powerful tool to help us do this; they provide a common vision and a practical blueprint for collaboration. The breadth of support for this letter demonstrates a commitment to working with the UK government to deliver healthy lives, healthy societies and a healthy planet for everyone. We can only build back better together and I hope that the Government will use the Goals to help them do this”

Alison Rose, Chief Executive Officer of NatWest Group, said:

“The coronavirus pandemic is having an enduring impact on how we live our lives and on our economy. But it also gives us an opportunity to address deep-rooted inequality and to level-up prosperity across the UK and make sure nobody is left behind. Doing nothing to address these issues is no longer an option.

“Now is our opportunity to embrace the transition to a low carbon economy, which in turn will unlock job opportunities in all parts of the UK and put us on a path to meet our net zero commitments.”

“As a business, our purpose is deliberately aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals, because they set the benchmark of a world we should all try to create for people and the planet. We are committed to championing the potential of people, families and businesses throughout the country so that the communities we serve can thrive.”

Michael Izza, ICAEW Chief Executive:

"The Sustainable Development Goals are an important framework to ensure governments and businesses are pursuing the long-term public interest, so we hope the Prime Minister will use them as a foundation for the UK's post-Covid recovery plans.

"As chartered accountants we think it's vital businesses look beyond profit and have a wider social purpose, and we're pleased to have so many organisations join our call to government to put these goals front and centre."

Steve Kenzie, Executive Director, UN Global Compact Network UK

"The SDGs define a universal framework for governments, businesses, and civil society to work together and create the future we want. We’re only 10 years away from the deadline to achieve the goals, and the Covid-19 crisis risks worsening inequalities and slowing down progress made. The SDG agenda must be used by the Government to ensure the UK recovers better, recovers stronger, and recovers together”.

Emily Auckland, Network Director, UKSSD

“Covid-19 has placed a spotlight on inequalities in our society. We have an opportunity to make sure our recovery from this crisis is fair and just so that people and places across the UK can prosper. This does not have to be in conflict with our net zero carbon ambitions and the SDGs help us work together to create social and environmental outcomes, so all people have a happy life on a healthy planet”.

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