Twenty years of the Global Compact: together for a sustainable future

Twenty years of the Global Compact: together for a sustainable future


On July 26, 2000 at the United Nations Secretariat Building in New York the UN Global Compact was launched with the goal of encouraging companies worldwide to adopt sustainable policies and to publish the results of their actions. The Global Compact Network Italia Foundation (GCNI) has just celebrated twenty years since the launch of the initiative by dedicating to it the fifth edition of the Italian Business & SDGs Forum, held on Oct. 13 and 14 at the Center for American Studies in Rome. The event provided an opportunity to examine the current state of play regarding the 2030 Agenda, as well as the recovery following the recent health emergency, and it involved representatives of companies, institutions, UN agencies, civil society and the voluntary sector.

 “We have entered the “decade of action” heading towards the finishing line of the 2030 Agenda,” announced GCNI President Marco Frey, introducing the discussion. “The fight against climate change, the elimination of extreme poverty and the reduction of inequality are the three main challenges that still await resolution. Unless there is a renewed impetus to drive forward the commitment to achieving sustainable development, the “just” transition inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will remain largely incomplete.” The goal of the Global Compact, Frey pointed out, is to promote a global economy that is more inclusive and sustainable, with the involvement of 157 Countries, 68 local networks, 11,500 companies and 3,400 non-business subjects that belong to the initiative.

Sustainability, a choice that is increasingly necessary

In a specially recorded video message Sanda Ojiambo, CEO and Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, emphasized that the crisis resulting from Covid-19 has “made it even more necessary for companies to undergo a sustainable transformation.” The latter is a crucial factor because only through partnership with the private sector will it be possible to overcome the challenges of the 2030 Agenda and the pandemic.

This concept was also highlighted by Carlo Tamburi, Head of Enel Italia, in his address at the presentation of the award for the Founding Promoters of the Global Compact Network Italia, which includes our Group. “The partnership with the Global Compact Network Italia Foundation reinforces international cooperation and dialogue between interlocutors active in the promotion of sustainability, generating best practices and innovative tools for achieving the SDGs,” he said.

The implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the activities of the Global Compact, in the context of driving the post-Covid recovery, were the subject of a general panel discussion and themed focus sessions dedicated to Energy, the Environment, Governance and Jobs of the Future held on Oct. 13. The results of these discussions were set out in detail on Oct. 14, with the aim of setting out proposals for concrete action on each of the topics to be presented to the Plenary Assembly of the GCNI, then transforming these into actual initiatives to be put into practice over the following year.

Our Group joined the Global Compact in 2004 and has been one of the LEAD companies for the past 10 years, while in 2019 our CEO and General Manager Francesco Starace was handed a second mandate for its board. Some time ago we made environmental, social and economic sustainability the core of our strategy, committing to contribute directly to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in particular SDG#7 (clean accessible energy for all), SDG#9 (resilient infrastructure, innovation and sustainable industry), SDG#11 (sustainable cities and communities) and SDG#13 (climate action).

Our targets

“In order to achieve the SDGs it is fundamental to work on the aspect of governance and to reopen a truly global – and not fragmented – dialogue,” Starace said at the inaugural round table on Oct. 13, “Multi-stakeholder dialogue for a fair transition: how is the private sector contributing to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda?”

The CEO also touched upon some of the Group’s achievements in recent years, beginning with the primacy in renewables. “Of the SDGs in which we are directly involved, the one we have made most progress with is SDG#7 with the attainment of the annual world record for renewable installed capacity. This is the result of a truly incredible effort by many people, whom I would like to thank.” Last year also saw the arrival of the first SDG-linked bond. “We were the first in the world to issue a bond linked to the achievement of the SDGs, a genuine innovation in the financial world that makes sustainability also an economic value and not only an ethical one.” This also represents a fundamental step forward in convincing an increasing number of companies and institutions that “reducing inequality, improving people’s quality of life and combating climate change is good for a company’s accounts”.

Investing in sustainability, in the necessary technological innovation to create it, is not a cost, but an investment in the future, stressed Filippo Rodriguez, Head of Sustainability Italia, speaking during a panel focused on the world of energy. “Sustainability is usually perceived in three dimensions: environmental, social and governance. Technological innovation however is the real enabling factor in order to continue to be increasingly sustainable over time. We call this synergy ‘Innovability®’.”

People at the core

2030 is not so far away; the task facing companies is to create the conditions that enable people to contribute to building the future, harnessing their full potential. During the panel “Jobs of the future and inclusion,” Ernesto Martinelli, Head of Empowerment, People&Organization, explained that “the jobs of the future will in no way reflect a hierarchical vision, they will be more dynamic and open, based on the circularity of ideas, on an exchange between generations and a model of empowerment that lets people express their talents.” Talents are, in fact, renewable resources and represent a company’s most important reserves. When more businesses are able to value and develop these resources, they will be better able to generate sustainable growth that is shared and that brings both internal and external value, without leaving anyone behind.