Implementation of the SDGs is a joint responsibility

Luca Jahier

The UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were agreed in September 2015, providing the world with a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. My work programme as President of the EESC places great emphasis on sustainable development. The slogan of my Presidency is “rEUnaissance - Dare a sustainable Europe”, because I believe Sustainable Development should support all the transformations that will shape the Europe of tomorrow. Bottom-up initiatives involving citizens and civil society will have a key role to play in this agenda to achieve economic prosperity, which must go hand in hand with environmental sustainability and social inclusion.

The implementation of the SDGs is a joint responsibility of civil society, the EU and Member States' authorities as well as the private sector. This is why coordinated, multi-stakeholder approaches to achieving these goals are essential.

These goals cannot be achieved without the ongoing commitment of the business community and it is encouraging to see how many businesses are taking full ownership of the SDGs and using them as a guideline to achieve sustainable business development in their global supply chain operations.

The challenges we face today are numerous and unprecedented. The word we hear more and more is “urgency”. We need to act now. There is no time to lose. There is no plan B.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report published on 8 October states very clearly: either we act now to limit global warming to a 1.5°C increase; or the consequences will be disastrous. We all need to change our behaviour and our way of living. “Business as usual” is not an option, not for citizens, governments or businesses.

But we must also see this challenge as an opportunity to consolidate the transition to a sustainable model of development. Europe needs to lead the way and set an example in the international arena by taking action in global supply chains. The real question here is if we are leading this change or others will do.

The EESC has been and will continue to advocate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda at a European level and beyond, transitioning to a society that is sustainable in economic, social and environmental terms. Europe must be sustainable - or it will simply not be. Trade policy is a very effective instrument to spread this message globally.

This is an opportunity to ensure sustainable consumption and production, to increase transparency and traceability in order to respond to the demands of the consumers on the one hand, and to improve working conditions and prevent conflicts in producing countries on the other.

Sustainable development should underpin all transformations that will shape the Europe of tomorrow, such as the fourth industrial revolution, the transition to a circular and low-carbon economy, growing challenges to EU values, threats to peace and stability on the EU's borders, and many others.

The EESC believes the EU is uniquely placed to further the realisation of the SDGs, for three reasons. First, it has the credibility to play an effective bridging role between developed and developing countries. Secondly, bottom-up initiatives at Member State level could strengthen European efforts and commitments from all levels, translated per sector and could contribute to close the SDGs implementation gaps. The impact of the private sector in helping realise the SDGs is ensured by promoting Responsible Business Conduct, encouraging socially responsible investments and enhancing effective management of Global Value Chains. Thirdly, the EU is the champion of promoting civil society involvement in the implementation of sustainable development in trade. 

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