First published on People Daily

By Judy Njino (Executive Director, Global Compact Kenya)

Climate change is undoubtedly the defining issue of our time — and we are at a pivotal moment. The world today is facing unprecedented, interconnected environmental challenges. If we do not urgently change course, we risk missing our chance to avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.

Today, there is a consensus that the climate crisis is directly linked to human activity. The question, therefore, is no longer whether climate change is real but the extent to which human activity is causing it and what can be done to turn this tide around.

Latest research indicates that we will likely miss the Paris agreement targets to limit global average temperatures to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels; and to limit the increase to 1.5 °C, going by the current global emissions trajectory. Reversing this trend will require effort from all sectors. Business leaders decisions have a direct impact on the lives of millions of people and the environment. It is, therefore, in their self-interest to work towards securing a sustainable future.

Today, sustainability is increasingly becoming a mainstream business agenda as executives recognise the growing relevance and urgency of global environmental, social, and economic challenges. Regardless of size, location, or sector, businesses are looking beyond the traditional drivers of financial performance, seeing how sustainability issues can affect their bottom line.

First published on People Daily

By Judy Njino (Executive Director, Global Compact Kenya)

Self-interest is, and has always been, the key driving force for economic activity.

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest,” wrote the Scottish economist Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations. In other words, out of individual actions borne of self-interest, we all benefit.

For businesses, the definition of self-interest has traditionally been very straightforward: keep production costs as low as possible and maximize profits. Defined in such narrow terms, corporate self-interest has often meant obtaining the cheapest labor and extracting the cheapest raw materials from anywhere and everywhere in the world, while minimizing associated expenditures.

The result of this model, globalization, has been prima facie positive: for the first time in 10,000 years, over 50 percent of the world’s population – 3.8 billion people – are now middle class or wealthier, according to the Brookings Institution.

But this zero sum business model – that emphasizes maximizing profits over all else – has also left in its wake not only a similar number of poor/vulnerable people, but also a rapidly warming planet on the brink of epochal catastrophe. 

First published in The Standard and The Star

 

By Judy Njino (Executive Director, Global Compact Kenya)

 

This year, the world celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in a climate of declining global commitments to international legal instruments, evidenced by receding human rights leadership from traditional Western champions.

 

According to the 2018 Rule of Law Index, more than 70 of 113 countries are reportedly experiencing an erosion of fundamental human rights.

 

Under pressure from rising populism buoyed by mass migration, States’ declining leadership in the promotion and protection of basic human rights has brought into sharp relief the role of business in this crucial arena.

 

Ubiquitous in public life, instrumental in social/cultural development and central to national and the global economies, business has often oscillated between champion and violator of basic human rights, from labour standards to gender norms and communal land rights.

 

Crucially, business has often if not always followed governments’ cue in determining the extent to which to observe, promote and advance human rights – complying with labour or environmental standards only when they become a legal compliance issue, for instance.