UN Global Compact Network Sri Lanka champions progress and innovation – Adaderana Biz English | Sri Lanka Business News

UN Global Compact Network Sri Lanka champions progress and innovation - Adaderana Biz English | Sri Lanka Business News

March, 22, 2024 The world constantly grapples with unprecedented challenges, from climate change to economic instability, making the need for collective action towards sustainable development more pressing than ever. At the forefront of this mission in Sri Lanka, the United Nations Global Compact Network Sri Lanka (Network Sri Lanka), the Local Network of the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, advocates for responsible business practices, innovation, and progress. Network Sri Lanka aligns its efforts with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a blueprint for creating a more sustainable and equitable future. At an event titled ‘Compass 2024’ outlining programmes for 2024 and anticipated outcomes, Rathika de Silva, the Executive Director of Network Sri Lanka, stressed the urgency for companies to take ambitious action, as the majority of businesses do not set bold enough targets to achieve the 2030 agenda. De Silva reiterates, “We will never stop investing in you (businesses) to do better on governance.” He introduces the ‘Forward Faster’ initiative of the UN Global Compact noting, “To achieve the SDGs by 2030 we need forward thinkers. Those who see the SDGs as a driver of growth, not reputation, who are busy making progress, not just pledges. Forward Faster is here to guide companies on the areas where they can make the biggest, fastest impact for 2030, because sustainable companies give us the best chance of achieving the SDGs but we need ‘you’ to take more ambitious action. The people and planet of tomorrow are relying on the forward thinkers and doers of today.” A key aspect of Network Sri Lanka’s roadmap for 2024 is the emphasis on active engagement in various working groups. These include focus areas in Climate, Business and Human Rights, Gender and Diversity, Water and Ocean Stewardship and Sustainable Supply Chain. By participating in these activities, companies can drive meaningful progress in environmental performance, business effectiveness, and social responsibility. At Compass 2024, a representative from each working group updated the audience on their progress. They outlined the progress made in 2023 and the proposed agendas of the individual groups for 2024, elaborating on key focus areas. It highlighted the importance of addressing critical issues while also encouraging active involvement from companies to collectively work towards sustainable and ethical practices. The impact of Network Sri Lanka’s efforts is exemplified by the experiences shared by Participant companies such as Hayleys Fabric PLC and John Keells Holdings PLC. In an address titled, ‘Catalyst for Innovation,’ Leonie Vaas, Head of Sustainability and Innovation at Hayleys Fabric, highlighted the company’s commitment to the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact and their transformative power in fostering innovation. She points out that, “The United Nations Global Compact offers a common framework for corporate responsibility and contributes to strengthen the company’s sustainability strategy. Our dedication to sustainable innovation has brought us a lot of benefits.” Vaas provided examples of eco-friendly alternatives in textile production, such as utilising waste wooden sawdust and biomass boiler waste for colorants, aligning with SDGs 12 and 13. Additionally, the company introduced reusable period panties free from harmful chemicals, contributing to health promotion, reducing environmental impact, and aligning with SDG 12. The benefits of dedication to sustainable innovation are multifaceted, including standing out from competitors, attracting environmentally conscious consumers and investors, ensuring compliance with regulations, and building trust with stakeholders. Vaas’s recognition as a UN Global Compact SDG Pioneer for SDG 12 responsible consumption and production in 2021 has opened exceptional opportunities, positioning them as advocates in responsible consumption and production in the Sri Lankan textile industry. Vaas restates, “We stand out from our competitors because our efforts attract consumers who care about the environment and the society.” Similarly, Dinuk Assistant Manager – Brand Development, from John Keells Holdings PLC, a member of the team at John Keells Holdings PLC, who participated in the SDG Innovation Accelerator program for Young Professionals facilitated by Network Sri Lanka in 2023, shared their experience from attending the Leaders’ Summit 2023, held in New York. Gunesekera emphasised the value of diversity in team composition, finding implementable solutions that are mutually beneficial for both business and sustainable goals, and the necessity of stepping out of comfort zones to collaborate with the right stakeholders. The qualitative aspects of the program, such as collaboration and knowledge sharing across borders, mentorship, and the opportunity to represent their country on a global stage, were also highlighted as significant benefits. Thanking Network Sri Lanka, Gunesekera notes “Our idea was simple – to use an invasive species to create sustainable alternative packaging or sustainable alternative products that could replace plastic packaging and plastic products. In turn this would also provide communities with a source of income as they would be the ones that create these products. It was a very simple concept we presented on a global stage and the learnings we gained therein at that forum itself are learnings that would last a lifetime.” The experiences shared by Participant companies serve as a testament in demonstrating how innovation with a focus on sustainability would not only benefit the environment and society but also enhance brand reputation, attract conscious consumers and investors, and ensure compliance with regulations. As the world navigates an era of unprecedented challenges, corporate commitment to the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact and the SDGs inspires businesses to reimagine their operations, embrace sustainable practices, and contribute to the creation of a more equitable, social and environmentally conscious future for generations to come. Video Story