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Sustainable Business Models Mean Cleaner Air and More Economic Opportunity, say Biz Leaders

The Business & Sustainable Development Commission said Monday that sustainable business models not only improve environmental management but also could open economic opportunities worth up to US$12 trillion and increase employment by up to 380 million jobs by 2030. To get there, the commission — made up of chief executive officers and civic leaders — said that businesses must partner with the public sector to achieve the goals.

“At a time when our economic model is pushing the limits of our planetary boundaries and condemning many to a future without hope, the Sustainable Development Goals offer us a way out,” said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, and a commissioner, in a statement. “Many are now realizing the enormous opportunities that exist for enlightened businesses willing to stand up and address these urgent challenges. But every day that passes is another lost opportunity for action. We must react quickly, decisively and collectively to ensure a fairer and more prosperous world for all.”

The report reveals 60 sustainable and inclusive market “hotspots” in just four key economic areas could create at least US$12 trillion, worth more than 10% of today’s GDP, it says. The breakdown of the four areas and their potential values are: Energy US$4.3 trillion; Cities: US$3.7 trillion; Food & Agriculture US$2.3 trillion; Health & Well-being US$1.8 trillion.

Energy companies, technology start-ups and venture capitalists are the cornerstones to success. But they need policymakers to find a common purpose — to join the public and private sectors to optimize both knowledge and capital. Sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, is working with General Electric to create the physical infrastructure that will permit the company to build wind and solar facilities, and other energy projects.

“We would never get large scale infrastructure without serious public regulations and public finance,” says Jeremy Oppenheim, head of the group, in a previous interview with this writer. “Private capital then comes in alongside that. What history tells us is that it will always be a combination of the two.”
To that end, 84 major firms that include not just Unilever but also Aviva, Coca Cola, HSBC, Ikea, Nestle and Vodafone have just urged the United Kingdom to support the UN’s sustainability efforts.
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