Contributed by: Show Editorial Team
SDG Media Zone brings UN Conversation to global audience
20th year anniversary of the UN Global Compact
UNGC has over 14,000 signatories from over 160 countries
INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTS: Dan Thomas, Chief Communication Officer of. UN Global Compact with Matt Bird
Matt Bird – Show Host, Traders Network Show: 00:00
Welcome back to the Traders Network Show broadcasting worldwide from Davos, Switzerland. I’m Matt Bird. We’re here at the 2020 World Economic Forum and I’m sitting in the SDG media zone with the man responsible for it, the chief communication officer for the UN global compact, Dan Thomas. Dan, welcome to the show. So we’ve known each other for some time now. I’ve been fortunate to see and witness the growth evolution of the SDG media zone, and your fingerprints are all over it and you’ve got your hand in the growth of this thing. And it’s proliferated through publishers, through networks, through impact circles globally. Can you tell us, give us a little bit of update of kind of what’s been happening?
Dan Thomas – Chief Communication Officer, UN Global Compact: 00:40
Well, I mean, the, the idea of the SDG media zone was to really take the conversations that we were having at the United nations and also in places like this at the World Economic Forum in Davos to take it out to a global audience. There’s lots of people who aren’t in Davos, who’re very interested in the sustainable development goals and interested in the conversations that the UN is having with business leaders, with other leaders, civil society leaders about the future of the world’s economy, and about this global universal agenda that we’re challenging. You know, in the case of the UN global compact, we’re challenging business leaders to be more ambitious around this agenda and really drive action in the next 10 years, which we’re calling the decade of action.
Matt Bird – Show Host, Traders Network Show: 01:29
I like that. One of the things I like most about the SDGs is it generates this feeling of sentiment and when the first media zone popped up, I think 2015 it was for the first time you had thought leaders and celebrities and CEOs descending down into an environment where people can feel and touch them and it made it real instead of watching it from afar in one of the major rooms. How does that play a role? The interaction, you know, being so close?
Dan Thomas – Chief Communication Officer, UN Global Compact: 02:03
Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s always been a live space in the sense that we’ve had a live audience as well as a global audience watching on webtv.un.org. A large global audience online. But really the idea of having the live audience was to make it more of a conversation, more intimate, even to take questions from the live audience to try and prompt, you know, a very important discussion around this agenda and how people are tackling the various goals and how they’re advancing their mission.
Matt Bird – Show Host, Traders Network Show: 02:35
Do you have any aspects of what you’re doing now? What is your favorite things that you really focus on?
Dan Thomas – Chief Communication Officer, UN Global Compact: 02:40
Well we cover the full agenda. The other important part of it is the social media part. We created it really at the UN because the UN wouldn’t allow the social media, journalists and actors to come in and cover what was happening at the UN. They weren’t considered journalists and therefore they were kept out. We created the SDG media zone as a Trojan horse if you’d like to get them in to get them into the UN to let them be part of the discussion. And then of course we wanted their audience, you know, all of these social media journalists and types, they have huge audiences. So we wanted to use them to get the world out. So they’re the sort of transmitters of the conversations that we’re having here as well as the webcast.
Matt Bird – Show Host, Traders Network Show: 03:25
Did you expect for the growth that happen so quickly?
Dan Thomas – Chief Communication Officer, UN Global Compact: 03:28
Well, I think it was an idea of its time. It came at the beginning of this agenda in 2015 and now we’re five years in. And still the global goals aren’t well known enough. Still, we’re trying to educate people about what these goals are, what they represent. And we’re only 10 years to go before we’ve got to hit the deadline. The target is 2030. And so now in 2020, we’re entering this decade of action and we’re asking all businesses, but actually everybody to really step up with ambition because we’re not going to create the world we want unless we really step on the gas.
Matt Bird – Show Host, Traders Network Show: 04:09
You know I’m familiar with obviously the global compact and we spent a number of years together working on impact initiatives and I have another organization that I’m very well integrated with that are part of the global compact. Do you want to talk a little bit about the global compact, what it is? You know, as I’m out there, I find it companies wanting to know more. It’s just there’s a lot of gravitas to it. There’s a lot of movement, there’s a lot of things get involved. But really, what is the global compact?
Dan Thomas – Chief Communication Officer, UN Global Compact: 04:20
The global compact was created 20 years ago. We’re celebrating our 20th anniversary this year. It was created by the secretary general Kofi Nan, who came to Davos and actually challenged companies to create a global compact between the member States of the United Nations and the world of the private sector in order to put a human face on globalization. It was a challenge that he laid out here at the World Economic Forum in Davos. And immediately companies realize the sense of what he was talking about, the idea that businesses had a role to play in society broadly, not just making profits for themselves, but actually taking care of the staff. And he asked them to sign up to 10 principles, principles based on UN conventions around human rights and labor rights, protecting the environment and crucially not being corrupt. And so he asked CEOs to take up these 10 principles. And that’s what we’ve done for the last 20 years. We’ve grown from 44 original companies that immediately signed up to 10,000 companies and another 3000 other organizations and associations. So we’re now the world’s largest corporate sustainability movement. We’re 20 years in. We’ve got 10 years to achieve this agenda, the sustainable development goals and a very impatient a world that needs a real transition to the world.
Matt Bird – Show Host, Traders Network Show: 06:06
Well, I’m not going to try to throw you a hard ball pitch, but for the audience watching, what are the sustainable development goals and what does hitting those goals in 2030 mean?
Dan Thomas – Chief Communication Officer, UN Global Compact: 06:16
Well, this is an agenda that 193 heads of state, 193 governments agreed on in 2015 at the United nations. It’s an agenda that is intended to transform the world, to make it more sustainable, lift people out of poverty and create peace and justice in the world for everybody. There are 17 goals. A lot of them they’re all interconnected here. They are behind us all 17 of the goals. It’s a very sort of complex tapestry, if you like, of interconnecting goals. And what we’re finding is that the business community in particular, they see the value of these goals clearly articulated by governments with a 15-year agenda, a 15-year target. And then behind these 17 goals, there’s actually 169 targets. So companies, they fully understand a clear plan. This is a clear plan. The business community has embraced this plan for themselves because they understand their responsibility to be good actors in society. And we’re finding that this is a roadmap which the private sector is finding extremely useful and we’re pushing them to be more ambitious in helping us to achieve the agenda.
Matt Bird – Show Host, Traders Network Show: 07:45
You know, people have asked me what are the SDGs? And using a roadmap to get there is a great explanation of the activities need to be done. But I look at the end products as being a good individual and corporate, global citizen and that means all aspects of our life from humanitarian to equality. This is in every language except for English stopping, stopping hunger in the world.
Dan Thomas – Chief Communication Officer, UN Global Compact: 08:06
You know, making sure that people have the opportunity of good health and wellbeing. People are taking climate action. I mean, as you can tell, a lot of these goals are very cross-cutting. I mean, we’re not going to achieve the world we want a more sustainable world if we don’t address climate change, that is one of the priorities. But at the same time, if we don’t target gender equality as well, then we’re not going to achieve the world we want because we will be not taking advantage of, you know, half the population we actually need to be part of this global agenda. So targeting gender equality is another important goal across cross crossing. Education. Hugely important. Make sure that, you know, future generations have the opportunity to education, we don’t want to leave anyone behind. That’s the idea either behind because they’re not educated behind because, you know, living in poverty, the world has enough resources for all of the population in it. It’s just a question of organizing ourselves as a society, as a world society to make sure that everybody can enjoy the benefits of the world that we have without destroying the planet.
Matt Bird – Show Host, Traders Network Show: 08:55
That’s excellent. Well said. I know we’re getting the wee hours of the day here on day three in Davos. So I’m going to let you go here. I guess let’s leave this with, there’s a big milestone coming up here this year. Do you want to tell everybody about what’s coming happening this summer?
Dan Thomas – Chief Communication Officer, UN Global Compact: 09:46
Well we’re working towards a leader summit. We’re going to be inviting a hundred CEOs from 168 countries to the UN in New York. The United nations general assembly will have 1500 business leaders and CEOs at the UN on the 15th of June. And then the next day we’ve booked the Javits center. We’ll be moving to the Javits center with a big exhibition opportunities for the private sector to come in and you know, exhibit the work that they’re doing on this agenda and a chance for us to really engage CEOs around the world in driving this agenda with more ambition.
Matt Bird – Show Host, Traders Network Show: 10:17
That’s amazing. And this is the big 20?
Dan Thomas – Chief Communication Officer, UN Global Compact: 10:20
Yes the 20th anniversary of the global compact. We’re just getting started. But at the same time, we’ve stuck with our principals. We haven’t changed them. Principals don’t go out of fashion, and these principals, if they’re followed by business, can actually achieve this agenda and achieve a lot more in the years beyond 2030.
Matt Bird – Show Host, Traders Network Show:
Well I think you made sustainability fashionable. So congratulations, Dan. Dan Thomas, chief communication officer for the UN global compact. I’m Matt Bird.
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