Coordinator, International Strategy & Global Initiatives, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Senior Vice President, Global Initiatives, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
September 14, 2023
The 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is underway, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is on the ground in force to represent the business community. Despite erupting worldwide fault lines, businesses are committed to working through global institutions to drive the growth, investment, and innovation critical to solving the world’s most pressing challenges, including a host of health, climate, and development priorities.
In addition to addressing the General Assembly, dozens of heads of state and government will head to meetings convened by the U.S. Chamber. They will do so because they see the support of the American business community as critical to achieving their lofty goals. In fact, this year marks the U.S. Chamber’s biggest showing at UNGA ever.
Sustainable Development Goals
This year’s UNGA will focus special attention on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Summit, or the SDG Summit. Occurring once every four years, this year’s SDG Summit marks the midpoint towards the 2030 deadline for implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This year’s SDG Summit will take stock of the urgent need to make more rapid progress toward achieving the SDGs. The COVID-19 pandemic was a shock for which both the UN and its members were inadequately prepared, underscoring how future global challenges can be far better addressed through stronger international cooperation. With this in mind, UN Secretary-General António Guterres proposed a three-pronged "Rescue Plan for People and Planet" to be discussed at the Summit, entailing:
- Global SDG commitments, such as increased funding and debt relief.
- National SDG commitments, with milestones to reduce carbon footprints, and cut domestic poverty and inequality by 2027 and 2030.
- Engaging domestic stakeholders, particularly civil society and businesses, in planning for future Summits.
The road to achieving the SDGs by 2030 is fraught with challenges, as many nations lack the resources needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. With global trust in international institutions declining, the spotlight turns increasingly toward the private sector as effective implementers of the SDGs. Globally, business has emerged as the most trusted institution (62%), followed by NGOs (59%), and then governments (50%).
While the commitment of governments and international institutions is necessary to establish ambitious global goals, the private sector is well positioned to bring these visions to life. Public-private collaboration and dialogue involving business perspectives are not just beneficial for achieving the SDGs by 2030—they are crucial.
To that end, the U.S. Chamber is leading over two dozen high-level conversations with top government representatives, including heads of state and government, from countries including Brazil and Nigeria to South Africa and Türkiye.
Here’s more on how the private sector is helping to advance the SDGs:
Climate change mitigation demands action—and here, the private sector’s role in addressing climate change and supporting the energy transition cannot be overstated. For example, 71% of businesses have set carbon reduction targets, according to the Carbon Disclosure Project.
In the auto industry, for example, companies are pushing the boundaries of sustainable transport to further promote electrification, while some tech giants have committed to run entirely on renewable energy, setting a new bar for companies worldwide.
These endeavors are not just about corporate responsibility; they are about reshaping industries. By innovating and investing in green technologies, businesses not only reduce their carbon footprint, but also pave the way for sustainable growth, making a decisive contribution to SDG 13, Climate Action.
The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the dire need for unified global health initiatives to better respond to and recover from global health crises. While governments grapple with public health infrastructure, the private sector demonstrates how agility and innovative allocation of resources makes a difference.
Some pharmaceutical companies, in their development of a COVID-19 vaccine, illustrated the type of rapid response businesses can provide. Similarly, other companies that developed antiviral treatments demonstrated the private sector's crucial role in research, development, and distribution. Throughout this process, intellectual property protection has supported research and development, strengthening an international ecosystem of innovation.
These firms’ contributions, working in tandem with governments as well as global organizations, amplify efforts towards achieving SDG 3, ensuring healthy lives, and promoting Good Health and Well-Being.
Digital Public Infrastructure
In our increasingly digital world, ensuring that everyone has reliable access to technology is vital for inclusive growth. By collaborating to provide affordable internet access in remote areas, companies expand not only their consumer reach, but also bolster public services, education, and healthcare through technology.
These types of initiatives ensure that the digital revolution doesn't leave behind underserved communities, making strides toward SDG 9, which emphasizes Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure.
Food security, intricately linked to climate change and economic stability, requires multi-faceted solutions. The UN estimates that nearly 9% of the global population, or almost 690 million people, were undernourished in 2019.
In response, some companies are revolutionizing sustainable agricultural practices, training farmers, and fortifying the food supply chain. On the other hand, business commitment to advancing crop protection solutions for small-scale farmers ensures increased yields and a steady food supply. By investing in sustainable and inclusive agricultural models, businesses play a monumental role in eradicating hunger, helping to achieve SDG 2: Zero Hunger.
Economic Recovery and Development
The repercussions of the pandemic have severely strained global economies, and the private sector holds the key to resurgence and growth. Some corporate initiatives, focusing on boosting economic growth in marginalized communities, underscore the efficacy of targeted financial services.
Meanwhile, other private programs for micro-entrepreneurs demonstrate how supporting grassroots businesses can stimulate local economies. As we inch closer to 2030, a fusion of macro- and micro-economic strategies from the business community will be paramount to achieve SDG 8, promoting sustained, inclusive Economic Growth and Decent Work for all.
More to Come
The Chamber’s engagement on global challenges will not stop when UNGA concludes. Following the consensus forged at the G20 Summit in India, the UN will likely endorse an ambitious plan to revamp multilateral development finance. We will pick up this agenda at the IMF/World Bank Annual Meeting in October and later in the year at COP28 and the APEC Summit—and look forward to facilitating many more fruitful discussions.
The 78th session marks the U.S. Chamber’s biggest showing ever at the United Nations General Assembly. Learn more:
About the authors
Gary Litman, senior vice president of Global Initiatives at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is responsible for the Chamber’s policy advocacy for the economic reform agenda of the G20, G7, and international institutions. He leads the Chamber’s participation in a range of global business coalitions and related business summits focused on sustainable economic policies.