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.

 

By Judy Njino (Executive Director, Global Compact Kenya)

17 goals, 169 targets, figures that should be in everyone’s mind for the next 13 years. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), all 17 aims to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Unlike its predecessors the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the SDGs are universal, more inclusive and comprehensive. The success of their implementation is pegged on all stakeholders, from governments, private sector, civil society, academia being actively involved.

Why SDGs matter to business:

The private sector is increasingly and more formally sought out as a key partner to advance the development agenda as the era of AID-based development has been changing due to recent global financial setbacks.

The SDGs call on companies everywhere to advance sustainable development through the investments they make, the solutions they develop, and the business practices they adopt. In doing so, the goals encourage companies to reduce their negative impacts while enhancing their positive contribution to the sustainable development agenda.