Lasting Change – When the Best Is Not Good Enough

WandaBy: Wanda Lopuch, Chair, The Global Sourcing Council

How much is your socially responsible supply chain worth? 30 billion dollars – would say Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, “and much more” he might add when considering the brand value of Apple.

It has been difficult to assign measurable value to social policies in business, referred sometimes to as “good and fuzzy things”. Until fuzzy things happened, that is. As Nike experienced over three decades ago when consumers revolted against sweatshops in Thailand. The damage for Nike was measured in immediate sales drop, but more importantly – the Nike brand was tarnished significantly, perhaps forever.

My goal for this article is to demonstrate the real and material value of companies’ social policies, such as socially responsible supply chains. To do that, I invite you to a quick analysis of the value of the stock of Apple, against certain events in Apple’s supply chain over the last four years. You will see that the only financially sound long term strategy for doing well is in fact by doing good. This is what Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple may refer to as 30 billion dollars and more. The stock analysis will show where “30 billion dollars…. and more” comes from.

The late Steve Jobs discovered rather painfully in San Francisco during the 2010 All Things D – D8 conference how social factors, for which Apple was not legally responsible, presented very real and very material risk. At that conference, Steve Jobs’ goal was to dazzle the crowd of loyal Apple followers with then revolutionary features of the iPhone 3. Instead, he found himself on unfamiliar territory defending the manufacturing strategy and social policies of Apple, and arguing that “Apple does not support sweatshops”.

Before the D8 conference, on June 6, 2010 The New Your Times broke the story about suicides among employees at Foxconn facilities. Foxconn is the largest private contract manufacturer in China. At that time, its 300,000 employees had been assembling products for many American and global companies including Dell, HP, Samsung, IBM, Microsoft and yes, Apple.

Apple loyal customers did not like the news about 12 suicides in the Foxconn facility, which assembled iPhones and iPads. Apple investors did not feel comfortable either with the otherwise great performance of Apple. After the first article in May 2010 about labor conditions at Foxconn, Apple stock fell by 12% wiping out tens of billions of dollars for Apple shareholders.

wanda1

Source: Yahoo Finance, Apple February 11, 2010 Stock Price

Moving forward two years: September 24, 2012 – despite many steps Apple had taken to enforce suppliers code of conduct, TV and press reports from Taiyuan, China showed thousands of people rioting in the Foxconn facilities. Within 2 days Apple’s stock fell. There were more disturbing reports from Foxconn Mexico facility. From mid September 2012 to early November 2012 Apple stock lost 5% of its market cap, which translates into staggering $30 billion.

wanda2
Source: Yahoo Finance, Apple September 17, 2012 Stock Price

In its 2012 analysis “Did Foxconn bring Down Apple Stock”, StockRiters says: “The Foxconn riots and suicides have illustrated something all American companies with factories in Asian countries should be strongly cautious about – that when American Consumers realize that behind the iPads they use, behind the bright LCDs and LEDs, the Nike shoes and the designer clothes they wear, that behind these there is an undernourished, underpaid, possibly underage laborer toiling away in some dank sweatshops in the foul underbelly of Southeast Asia – that understanding has an immediate effect on the stock of the responsible company. A company that resorts to, condones, or ignores such business practices from its contractors, will get hurt where it matters most, its bottom-line. Therefore it is sound financial astuteness to spend money on removing this sort of incidents from ever happening”.

Watching Apple’s stock performance, shareholders of global corporations connected the dots between short-term cost savings and long-term sound business strategy, and took decisive steps. They demanded management of their companies to review and address social risks in the global supply chain, even if these companies were not legally responsible for suppliers behaviors.

Shareholders Mounting Expectations

For example, shareholders of Microsoft, at the annual shareholders meeting in October 2011 in New York City, passed a shareholders resolution which required the management of Microsoft to turn its supply chain into a socially responsible supply chain. Further, the resolution imposed specific requirements for auditing vendors’ disclosure of their works and safety standards, and a long-term compliance with internationally accepted standards. See: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/mar13/supply_chain.pdf

Microsoft management followed these steps with structural and policy changes. Suppliers’ code of conduct has been reviewed and strict enforcement program of the code has been implemented, offering industry “gold standards” in mitigating social risk in the supply chain. Now, Microsoft’s supplier selection and evaluation criteria include so called “Global Citizenship” factors that can account for up to 11% of the total weight in vendor selection.

Microsoft is hardly an exception. Companies such as Cisco, Dell, Intel, HP, Oracle – just to name a few of those with significant global purchasing power, have reviewed their supply chain procedures and have elevated standards. And yes – vendors who do not comply are being dropped, sometimes in highly publicized cases. As Apple did in 2012 when it fired Pingzhou Electronics Co (PZ), one of its biggest Chinese suppliers, for a violation, and subsequent non-compliance of the Supplier Code of Conduct. http://www.forbes.com/sites/connieguglielmo/2014/04/17/john-chambers-unfinished-business-can-he-reverse-ciscos-growth-slump/

Across companies and sectors, a social factor/social risk in vendor selection and evaluation accounts for 3% to over 10% of the total score. Its significance to a company’s bottom line is also finally getting more recognition among mid-level managers who, until recently, have been rewarded for delivering savings by cutting the cost of suppliers. Shareholders of Microsoft strongly believe that: “The reporting requirement will also drive sustainability improvements in Microsoft’s supply chain.” Management listens; as well as management of other global manufacturers in sectors ranging from electronic components, to general manufacturing to clothing.

One may argue that the “tipping point” for the implementation of stronger social policies in the supply chain was the April 2013 collapse of Rona Plaza in Bangladesh, which claimed over 1,100 deaths. Investigations conducted by global buyers uncovered numerous violations of the code of conduct of suppliers. As the tragedy unleashed significant change in consumer attitudes, especially demands for transparency, global brands such as H&M, Zara and Carrefour realized that they have to assume responsibility for enforcing code of conduct for suppliers.

Back to Apple and Foxconn – Lasting Change

In response to the initial New York Times suicides report, Apple initiated many decisive steps in implementing the Apple Supplier Code of Conduct. Even before 2010, Apple was one of the global leaders in enforcing fair labor conditions among its suppliers. In 2005, it created a very progressive, for that time, Supplier Code of Conduct and followed it up with a disciplined global audit system. But it was not enough. “Steve, Apple can do better” – wrote “Jay” one of many bloggers on the MacStories Blog after suicides were reported, reflecting the views of many.   “You should educate yourself”, responded Steve Jobs. “We do more then any other company on the planet”. Objectively true, but it was still not enough for Apple followers. More had to be done. Steve Jobs realized that quickly after being challenged by thousands of email.

After the suicides were reported, Apple created a comprehensive improvement plan. It called on the Fair Labor Association (FLA) an independent international labor watch-dog group, for its involvement and guidance, to assess working conditions and make business recommendations. The FLA issued its detailed report almost two years later and made it available on the internet. Under the watchful eye of the FLA, Apple and Foxconn created an action plan consisting of 356 items; 99% have been implemented. See: http://www.forbes.com/sites/connieguglielmo/2013/12/12/apples-labor-practices-in-china-scrutinized-after-foxconn-pegatron-reviewed/

The FLA gave Apple a high score on addressing the situation at Foxconn specifically, and on the Chinese global market http://www.fairlabor.org/press-release/final_foxconn_verification_report. In February 2014, Apple released again its 2013 progress report on Apple Suppliers Responsibility, underscoring its commitment to transparency and accountability.

Apple, arguably the most powerful global company in terms of its financial ability to enforce its business principles, made a significant mark on changing global labor conditions. The long-lasting effect of Apple’s response to the 2010 Foxconn suicides brought lasting changes in labor standards in China, and other parts of the world.

After the devastating 2013 event in Bangladesh, AsiaInspection (http://www.asiainspection.com) a company that conducts compliance testing with global safety standards in Asia declared 2014: the year of socially accountability for global supply chains as reported by Forbes in March 2014.

According to Louis Coppola, Executive V.P. of the Governance and Accountability Institute (http://www.ga-institute.com) in the IT sector, 243 GRI reports were filed globally for 2013; although only 38 or approximately 16% in the United States. These 243 IT companies adopting GRI standards may not be an impressive number in itself, as it represents only a small fraction of all the IT companies in the world. However, if we consider that in 2007 only 50 GRI-style reports were filed, and the number almost tripled in 2010 to 145, then such a growth represents significant progress in global embracement of social accountability in actual business activities, including global supply chain management.

However, as Forbes’ Robert Bowman noted in his March 2014 analysis, keeping tabs on complex, modern-day supply chains continue to be a challenge. See: http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertbowman/2014/03/11/is-this-the-year-when-supply-chains-become-socially-responsible/. Wal-Mart has experienced it share of challenges after introducing its Global Sustainability Index in 2009 as an integral part of its sustainable supply chain strategy. The main challenge has been how to capture reliable data, assure transparency, and enforce the code of suppliers conduct among secondary and tertiary suppliers that account for 75% of products produced specifically for China.

As far as Apple is concerned, the company is a true transformational leader in implementing social accountability in the global supply chain. Its decisive stand on the working conditions in the Foxconn case, its persistence in implementing transparency and accountability throughout many layers of vendor management, constitutes now an integral part of Apple’s brand value. This is the “social bite” in the Apple logo that Tim Cook might have had in mind when assessing the value of its socially responsible supply chain as “30 billion…and much more”.

So how much is your supply chain worth?

Apple Logo multi

 

 

 

 


Please submit your comments to
 contactgsc@gscouncil.org. We will share your views with the community.

A Corporate Catalyst for Constructive Social Impact

Lang Dan headshot100x100
By: Dan Lang, Head of Worldwide Customer Relations for Sutherland Global Services

 

 
 

Essley Jay100x100
Jay Essley, Director of Global Client Engagement, Sutherland Global Services

 

 
 
A couple of years ago on a rainy humid night in Manila, we had the pleasure of personally presenting Digital Literacy Certifications to a class of approximately thirty Sutherland students. Our attendance was spurred by the fact that this particular class contained Sutherland’s 20,000th program graduate. From a corporate perspective, we were excited to celebrate such a major milestone, which was a culmination of years of hard work, hardships, and triumphs. However, as we found out quickly, it would turn out to be so much more.

To the average person of an industrialized society, graduating from a digital literacy program is nothing more than paper recognition for having learned the essentials of how to operate a computer and its normal software capabilities. To put it into perspective, among the first lessons are how to physically boot up a hard drive. However, on that night, we got to see firsthand how truly empowering such a basic education was to some of our fellow world citizens who have not had the blessings of growing up in a fully modernized world, one with abundant access to technology in its many forms.

The graduating class consisted of students ranging from ages 12 to 18 and many of them were from extremely impoverished areas where opportunities for a basic digital education seemed more like a pipe dream. We were instantly taken aback by the fact that the evening felt more like a college graduation than anything else. Teary-eyed parents and relatives beaming with pride were present as each student’s name was read aloud prior to walking the graduation stage to receive their certifications. After the ceremony and celebration, gleeful students and parents lingered, requesting photographs with us and constantly remarking that they were so thankful for the opportunity that we gave them. It’s fair to say that we didn’t fully grasp the gravity these students and their families placed on having completed the program until we saw it firsthand.

We relay this story to not to boast of our own success, but rather to highlight that there are so many areas of our global community where something as basic as learning how to operate a computer could very well be the primary ticket out of the depths of poverty. Think of it as a catalyst providing the spark for these young people to pursue further education or simply obtain a first job with their newly acquired skill set.

To date, Sutherland has now breached the 30,000 digital literacy program participant mark globally, and we are weeks away from opening another location in Kingston, Jamaica. While we may never know the full impact our involvement has had, we do know that by offering this free program in communities nearby to where we operate, Sutherland will continue to provide an avenue for growth and success where opportunities for social advancement are sometimes scarce at best.

Digital literacy graduates, their trainers, Tarlac Philippine Governor and mayors, and Sutherland executive Dan Lang
[front row 3rd from left].
Photo courtesy of Philippine Star media June 4, 2012.

Since 2007, Sutherland’s guiding principle in the area of charitable giving and social responsibility has been to stand firmly behind causes and technologies which foster, support, and assist in advancing the lives of young people around the world and in the communities where we work and live. As we have evolved in this space over the years, we have strived to empower youth through advancements in, and access to technology by offering our own programs with key partners like Microsoft. Our multitude of community technology centers, which offer the free digital literacy program supplied by Microsoft, are the hallmark of those efforts.

While mission statements and taglines serve their function, what is most important is how the mission statement defines a consistent course of action and provides structured purpose and an identity. We at Sutherland have had our fair share of difficulties in this space over the years, as any social program and charitable mission will, but the lessons learned and achievements gained have far outweighed the blips we have experienced. Each new challenge is an opportunity to positively impact the communities where we have a corporate footprint and emboldens our resolve to stay active and engaged.

To that end, Sutherland is proud to announce that in the coming months, we will be creating the Sutherland Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation separate but aligned with our corporate parent. Its sole mission will be to continue building on our past charitable successes and expand into other socially responsible initiatives. As an example, we have already begun to address how Sutherland can be more environmentally conscious as a corporate citizen. By participating in the Carbon Disclosure Project and the Global Reporting Initiative, we have learned a tremendous amount about what our global footprint really looks like. These reporting structures will be instrumental in shaping a more concerted effort to reduce our impact on the environment and are crucial in guiding the development of effective corporate policies.

Israelmore Ayivor, a young man from Ghana, has been quoted saying, “Excellence is to keep beating your own standards every day. If you don’t have a standard for yourself, you have no records to beat, and if you don’t have any record to beat, you can’t excel.” Poignant words when you apply its meaning to corporate social responsibility initiatives. We at Sutherland strive to be at the head of the pack when it comes to CSR initiatives, not because it creates great PR, marketing materials, or increases the bottom line, but because it’s simply the right thing to do. We know that we have much more to do and more challenges to face, but we are excited to represent a leading force for positive impact on a corporate level in the communities which have given us so much in return. At the end of the day, it’s much better to be doing good while doing well, than just to be doing well.

About the Authors:

Dan Lang is currently Head of Worldwide Customer Relations for Sutherland Global Services, the world’s largest privately held, Business Process Outsourcing organization. He also heads the company’s community affairs investments. Previous to this assignment, he was President of the Sutherland Group, Ltd. and a Marketing Representative for Xerox Corporation.

He is actively involved in global initiatives to bridge the growing economic, educational and digital divide. He works with non-government organizations, Microsoft Community Affairs and The Rockefeller Foundation – Global Impact Sourcing.

Jay Essley is the Director of Global Client Engagement at Sutherland Global Services where his day to day responsibilities focus on the negotiation of commercial contracts. In addition, Mr. Essley is General Counsel to SGS’ Corporate Social Responsibility Board. In that capacity he has taken a lead in promoting SGS’ efforts to codify comprehensive CSR policies and engage partners in continued CSR efforts.  Prior to joining Sutherland Jay was a commercial trial attorney in New York City and remains a member of the NYS Bar Association and the American Bar Association.

Sutherland Global Services presently maintains relationships with over 150 multinational corporations, healthcare providers, governments and universities around the globe.

Sutherland Global Services Wins Bronze Stevie® Award in 2014 International Business Awards

[ROCHESTER, NY] – August 20, 2014 – Sutherland Global Services was recently named the winner of a Bronze Stevie® Award in the Corporate Social Responsibility category in The 11th Annual International Business Awards. More than 3,500 nominations from organizations of all sizes and in virtually every industry were submitted this year for consideration in a wide range of categories, including Corporate Social Responsibility Program of the Year, Company of the Year, Best New Product or Service of the Year, and Executive of the Year, among others. Sutherland Global Services won in the Corporate Social Responsibility category for their Computer Training Center (CTC) program.

The International Business Awards are the world’s premier business awards program. Individuals and organizations worldwide, public and private, for-profit and non-profit are eligible. In 2014 entries were received entries from more than 60 nations. The Award will be presented to Sutherland in Paris, France on October 10.

Sutherland’s digital literacy investment consists of course material and software provided by Microsoft and administered and managed by world class trainers at Sutherland-equipped and funded facilities throughout Asia and now in the Caribbean. In need members of economically challenged communities receive comprehensive learning under the guidance of experienced trainers in classrooms fully equipped with multimedia enabled computers, internet access and digital teaching aids. In May, Sutherland celebrated a major milestone having graduated its 25,000th student. A new center is scheduled to open Kingston, Jamaica this coming September to widen the global reach.

“We are truly honored our work has been recognized by the Stevie Awards. Digital literacy is the cornerstone of Sutherland’s Corporate Social Responsibility mission to strengthen the local, underserved communities here in America as well as abroad. We have successfully impacted the lives of our 25,000 people but that is hardly scratching the surface,” said Dan Lang, an executive with Sutherland and the head of Sutherland’s social responsibility mission. Sarah Troup of The Rockefeller Foundation added “large Business Process Outsourcing companies like Sutherland can have an amazing impact on communities around the world in terms of providing not only education but sustainable employment opportunities.”

Conducting business for “Profit with Purpose” has been moving from the side-line to the main-line of business practices. Sutherland provides both thought-leadership and practical examples in that area, says Wanda R. Lopuch, Ph.D., the Chairwoman of the Global Sourcing Council. Focusing on illiteracy among the underprivileged – one of the most universal goals, makes Sutherland a truly global leader, recognized by the Stevie Award.

Stevie Award winners were selected by more than 250 executives worldwide who participated in the judging process from May through early August. “We congratulate all of the Stevie winners in this year’s IBAs,” said Michael Gallagher, president and founder of the Stevie Awards. “The quality of entries we receive improves every year. This year’s judges were rewarded with the opportunity to review more than 3,500 stories of business achievement and innovation from around the world. We look forward to celebrating the winners’ achievements in Paris on October 10.”

Details about The International Business Awards and the lists of Stevie Award winners are available at www.StevieAwards.com/IBA.

About Sutherland Global Services

Established in 1986, Sutherland Global Services is a global provider of business process and technology management services offering an integrated portfolio of analytics-driven back-office and customer facing solutions that support the entire customer lifecycle. It is one of the largest, independent BPO companies in the world serving global leaders in major industry verticals. Headquartered in Rochester, N.Y., Sutherland employs over 30,000 professionals and has locations across the United States, Brazil, Slovakia, Morocco, Philippines, Malaysia, China, India, UAE, Egypt, Bulgaria, UK, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, and Jamaica.  For more information, visit www.sutherlandglobal.com.

About the Stevie Awards
Stevie Awards are conferred in six programs: The International Business Awards, The American Business Awards, the Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards, the Stevie Awards for Women in Business, and the Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service.  The sixth program, the German Stevie Awards, opened for entries on 18 August. Honoring organizations of all types and sizes and the people behind them, the Stevies recognize outstanding performances in the workplace worldwide.  Learn more about the Stevie Awards at www.StevieAwards.com.

Contact:

Sutherland Global Services
H. Nancy Breed
Vice President, Global Head of Industry Services
585-451-3982
Nancy.Breed@SutherlandGlobal.com

 

 

IN CONVERSATION: An Interview with Amit Saha

Saha Amit100x100
Amit Saha, Chief Sustainability Officer, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages

 

 
 

Bansal Amit100x100
By: Amit Bansal, Head of Global Sourcing Council India Chapter in Mumbai; CEO and Founder of Mitra Group and Mitra Capital

 

 

IN CONVERSATION, a monthly profile of people actively engaged in sourcing, talks with Amit Saha, Chief Sustainability Officer of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages (HCCB).

Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages (HCCB) has been a front runner in promoting sustainability and social upliftment thorough various programs in India.  One example is their recycling of PET bottles waste into garments. Click to read August 4, 2014 news article: http://www.fibre2fashion.com/news/apparel-news/newsdetails.aspx?news_id=166591

________________________________________________________________________________

Bansal (Q): Sustainability has so many different meanings.  How do you define sustainability at Coca Cola, and specifically at Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages?

Saha (A):  For Coca Cola the entire Sustainability Journey is envisioned in our Vision 2020 plan around ME – WE – WORLD framework which is Me (Active living), We (Being a good social and corporate citizen) and World (Giving back to the environment). The framework is as follows and has clear directional elements:

Coke HCCB Graphic
Bansal (Q): What are the specific aspects of Sustainability in India?  How do you set up goals for India?

Saha (A): For India we follow the same framework. However, some elements like social, water, packaging etc take a priority. The things that we are doing in our communities and environment are more fully described in a presentation that I did recently at Coke HQ in the U.S. Click below:

HCCB Town Hall_Saha PPT 1
Bansal (Q):
How do you measure the success of your sustainability programs? 

Saha (A): Success is measured by taking feedback form stakeholders. Clear GAP analysis has been done against GRI G4 and we are working to close the same with actions. We have multiple stakeholder and industry conferences and get a lot of feedback on how are we doing before any social, community level program is initiated – its checked if it fits the framework of our “model village “ which has health, sanitation, drinking water and career development amongst youth from villages as priority.

There is SNA (social need analysis) that is also undertaken for determining which intervention would work and with which partner (a NGO who comes in from the very beginning). Our “water positive” goal means we replenish every drop of water that we use in beverage and the production of it for the whole of India.  

Bansal (Q): A somewhat personal question: How did the role of the Head of Sustainability at Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages come about?  What was your personal journey to this position?

Saha (A): India is amongst very few of the Coke countries which felt the need for a CSO position. The idea being to put our energies in the future for the long-term. Renewables, recyclables, model village programs, drinking water for all, supporting schools with toilet facilities specifically for girls, and supporting water replenishment. Thus contributing to India’s ability to have more ground water etc.

Most of these activities are finding a match with the new government initiatives. We need to work on present current risks and opportunities. However, we need to be in strategic position to take Coke in India to be recognised as Industry Sustainability Leader in the eyes of our stakeholders. My CEO, T. Krishna Kumar, wanted me to take this up and prepare the organisation towards 2020 – where we would be the largest FMCG in the country.

Coke in India has 7 years of continuous double-digit growth and will become one of the top five markets for Coke worldwide very soon. It needs to be working towards the most responsible, caring and environmentally friendly company in India – and not just a growth engine for Coke worldwide- for long-term sustainability of Coke, its India operations and India as country. With this background I was given the opportunity and I grabbed it with both hands!

For more information on HCCB’s sustainability initiatives, click: www.coca-colaindia.com/sustainability/sustainability.html

About Amit Saha: Amit is Chief Sustainability Officer, Hindustan Cola-Cola Beverages (HCCB) where he has been engaged for 15 years, bringing a diverse range of skills to HCCB’s sustainability charter.

Amit has 25 years experience in the automobile, FMCG and food sectors, including companies such as Eicher and Gillette. He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA.

About the Author: Amit Bansal is Founder and CEO of Mitra Group and Mitra Capital. He is also the Head of the Global Sourcing Council India Chapter in Mumbai.

Amit has worked at ABN Amro Bank, The Royal Bank of Scotland in New York, and Jaypee International Inc. He is also a Director at North India’s leading publishing company Sahitya Bhawan Publishers and Distributors Private Limited, a Special Consultant on India at Transcarbon International (a firm assisting the private sector, the public sector, the voluntary sector, and civil society in implementing sustainable development practices).

Mitra Group is a diversified company with interests in Education, Financial Services, Healthcare and Information Technology.

Mitra Capital is a boutique investment banking firm specializing in Financial & Strategic Advisory, Cross-border Mergers & Acquisitions and Corporate Banking (domestic and International) to both public and private companies. The firm also specializes in raising capital for start-ups and SME’s.

UN Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals Finalized Its Work

PatriciaChaves100x100By: Patricia Chaves, Senior Sustainable Development Officer UNDESA – Division for Sustainable Development

On Saturday 19 July 2014, after more than 24 hours of exhausting negotiations, the Open Working Group on the sustainable development goals (OWG) finalized its report containing 17 goals and their associated targets, as well as a four-page introduction framing the context of the report. The report reaffirms the universality of the future development agenda with enough flexibility to adapt the goals and targets to national circumstances as well as presupposes a timeframe until 2030 for the implementation of the goals.[i]

The OWG was established in 2013 as mandated by the UN Conference on Sustainable Development or Rio+20. Its members from Governments and observers from the United Nations system and civil society completed their work after having held thirteen formal sessions and several informal discussions over a period of one-and-a-half years.

The SDGs will constitute one of the most important pieces of the puzzle of the new post 2015 development agenda which leaders around the world will adopt on September 2015 at the United Nations.

Concretely, the goals can be summarized as follows.

Goals 1 through 7 build on and advance the core agenda of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Target 1.1 contains the commitment to eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere. In emphasizing a universal agenda, target 1.2 commits countries to reduce by half those living in poverty according to national definitions, thus making the poverty goal relevant for all countries (Least Developed Countries, middle or high income as well as developed countries). Goal 2 reinforces and expands the commitment to end hunger and achieve food security. On health, Goal 3 provides for the ending of the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases, while also committing to cut by one-third the rise of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). On education, targets introduced the dimension of quality of the primary and secondary education as well as contained a new commitment on access to early childhood development, care and pre-primary education. The stand-alone goal on gender equality contains strong targets, including ending discrimination, and eliminating violence against women and girls. The issue of sexual and reproductive health and rights proved very sensitive, but the relevant target under the gender goals is in line with agreed language which member states have agreed in other fora. Goal 6 on water addresses key dimensions of this critical issue, containing targets on access to safe and affordable drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, addressing water scarcity as well as an end to open defecation and improving water quality through reduced pollution.

Photo courtesy of UN Photo / Eskinder Debebe

Photo Courtesy of United Nations
Photo Credit: Eskinder Debebe

The OWG report broke new ground in including several goals not reflected in past MDGs. Particular references were embraced on goals on energy, economic growth, reducing inequality, cities and sustainable consumption and production. Targets under energy are addressing access to energy for all, substantially increasing the share of renewable energy, doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency. A target addressing fossil fuel subsidies was included in goal 12 on sustainable consumption and production. Goal 16 also included references to peace and inclusive societies, with targets promoting the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensuring equal access to justice of all. A stand-alone goal on climate change represents a recognition of the importance of this issue to sustainable development. Other goals address aspirations on oceans, marine resources, ecosystems, biodiversity, desertification and land degradation, among others.

The report of the OWG has certainly solidified the integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development and has brought core issues of the global commons into the goal and target framework. These issues would be of key importance when defining the post 2015 development agenda next year.

Procedurally, it is still to be determined how member states would like to forward the report of the OWG to the General Assembly for further action and how this report would be taking into account in the negotiations of the post 2015 development agenda. For now, the report has been received with great expectations and hopes.

Finally, a word of praise and recognition to the Co-Chairs of the OWG, H.E. Mr. Mr. Csaba Kõrösi, Permanent Representative of Hungary, and Mr. Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya to the United Nations. The working group would not have accomplished its task without their leadership, perseverance and creativity to conduct and facilitate the discussions.

[1] For further information, including all documentation and the report of the OWG on SDGs, please visit http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/owg.html

About the Author: Patricia Chaves is currently a Senior Sustainable Development Officer at the United Nations Division for Sustainable Development. She has 20 years of in-depth knowledge and experience in international policy development and policy making. As a member of the UN Secretariat’s team servicing the Rio+20 Conference (Brazil – 2012), Ms. Chaves was instrumental in the conceptualization and organization of the Partnerships Forum at that Conference which is considered the largest conference ever convened by the United Nations.

Before joining the United Nations, Ms. Chaves was a career Foreign Service officer of the government of Costa Rica.