Sanda Ojiambo thinks companies can thrive whereas upholding values which might be turning into more and more necessary to shoppers and stakeholders. And as CEO and govt director of the United Nations World Compact, she is on the helm of a motion navigating that intersection of enterprise progress and honoring social justice actions. 

Throughout GreenBiz 21 final week, Ojiambo spoke in regards to the want for corporations to have a mission-driven response to social points as a way to contribute to an equitable and resilient restoration from the continued COVID-19 pandemic. She credited her expertise in each the personal and public sector for her capability to brainstorm potential options to inequality that contain each. 

“There must be an ‘all of’ sector, a multi-sectoral method to driving this [social] change,” Ojiambo stated throughout a keynote dialog. “Every time I am in a distinct sector, there’s totally different views, totally different challenges and positively totally different alternatives.” 

She known as 2020 an “unimaginable 12 months” that demonstrated how enterprise leaders can step as much as embody their firm’s social mission statements, pointing to new partnerships created to assist COVID aid. She identified that necessity had bred innovation throughout e-commerce, on-line studying and even vaccine manufacturing.

Greater than 90% of the 169 targets of the SDGs are linked to worldwide human rights and labor requirements.

“Companies have shifted into sanitizers, important manufacturing, the banking trade reshaped its views on credit score each for retail and establishments… I’ve to say enterprise really has stepped up,” Ojiambo stated. 

She identified that although the pandemic had put social justice within the heart of some innovation and mobilization efforts of huge companies, a lot work is required to handle the rise of poverty and academic gaps attributable to the financial downturn. Regardless of some wins for large enterprise, Ojiambo reminded the GreenBiz 21 viewers that many small companies had closed, creating increased charges of unemployment. 

A social crucial to talk up

Enterprise members of the UN World Compact decide to common rules together with the concept that corporations ought to assist the safety of internationally acknowledged human rights. Ojiambo stated companies can’t keep away from discussing social points comparable to the best to employment, well being and security within the office as a result of they play a task in shaping entry to these rights. 

“Greater than 90 % of the 169 targets of the [United Nations Sustainable Development Goals] are linked to worldwide human rights and labor requirements,” Ojiambo elaborated. “So it is really not possible for enterprise, certainly anybody, to ship on the World Objectives with out ensuring that human rights are entrance and heart.”

Companies are falling behind

Ojiambo emphasised that the UN World Compact’s guiding rules are a technique to make sure extra companies have a “due diligence” course of that accounts for potential human rights dangers attributable to a enterprise. Companies additionally ought to have a dedication adopted by a coverage that may treatment any dangers attributable to enterprise practices and forestall additional dangers sooner or later. (To listen to extra, take heed to Episode 255 of GreenBiz 350.)

She worries that many companies haven’t created prevention measures past stating their dedication to human rights and sustainability. 

“There’s an enormous hole between aspiration, coverage and motion,” she stated. 

There’s an enormous hole between aspiration, coverage and motion.

An pressing precedence

Based on Ojiambo, one key social justice subject companies ought to put extra efforts in direction of addressing is racial justice. She defined that racial inequality typically happens when different key human rights are being denied. As a result of racism is a systemic subject, addressing racism would require companies to be introspective and proactively engaged in altering programs of racism, she stated. 

“That is undoubtedly not an exercise or an occasion, it’s a long-term course of. And I feel that corporations should be capable of embark on this journey with transparency, with openness — being daring and being candid to actually handle race points,” Ojiambo stated. 

Ojiambo additionally pointed to how companies might use social justice insurance policies to handle environmental justice points and the way each points intersect with public well being. 

“The well being response must be seen within the larger context of the general response and restoration round COVID — simply to make sure, as I all the time say that these practices and these improvements which have taken place over time proceed to be environmentally sound,” she defined. 

Message of hope?

Regardless of some gaps in addressing social justice points and sustainability, Ojiambo stated it was inspiring to see companies which have voluntarily used their platforms and sources to handle various points all through 2020. 

For instance, Starbucks gave employees hazard pay in the course of the first months of the pandemic and gave them the choice to have paid break day in the event that they felt that they had been uncovered to the virus. And software program firm Salesforce didn’t lay off employees. CEO Marc Benioff took to Twitter to problem different corporations to keep away from layoffs for at the least 90 days final 12 months. 

Ojiambo’s hopefulness that companies will proceed to step as much as handle social points is propelled by seeing how governments and the personal sector are shifting to handle societal issues. 

“I feel there’s lots evolving round us. And I do hope that this world of surprising partnerships continues, not just for emergencies, however truly for a greater method of doing enterprise and thriving ahead,” she stated. 

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