Dr. Wolfgang Große Entrup

U.N. Goals: only Common Action Leads to Success


Three years ago, history was made: on September 25, 2015, the United Nations (U.N.) decided to adopt a total of 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The global community thus reached an agreement on goals to be achieved by 2030, such as ending poverty and hunger, enabling a healthy life and education for everyone, achieving gender equality, protecting ecosystems and sustainably shaping production, consumption and economic growth.

Dr. Wolfgang Große Entrup

Dr. Wolfgang Große Entrup

Head of Corporate Sustainability & Business Stewardship at Bayer

For the time being, such goals only exist on paper. They are not binding under international law. Yet their normative power should not be underestimated. Paper is patient, but it can also be very powerful when it conveys convincing ideas. This is partly reflected in the advances made by the world community in a number of areas. Since the turn of the millennium, for example, the maternal mortality rate in sub-Saharan Africa has declined by 35 percent and the mortality rate for children below the age of five by an even more substantial 50 percent. In South Asia, the child marriage rate has fallen by more than 40 percent. Measures and initiatives to promote sustainable consumption and production exist in more than 100 countries.

Despite the progress achieved, there are still enormous challenges

Such measures are a testament to the soft power of the United Nations and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals – as “toothless” as they may be: the world is moving in the right direction, albeit slowly and by no means uniformly. Yet despite the progress achieved, there are still enormous challenges – and worrying setbacks can also be obseved.

Although the number of people affected by hunger around the world has declined significantly in recent years, for example, it increased again in 2016 for the first time in more than a decade – by 38 million to 815 million people.

Even such fundamental things as access to clean lavatories are still out of reach for many people: in 2015, for example, 2.3 billion people still did not have access to the simplest sanitary facilities, and some 900 million people still relieve themselves outdoors.

The electricity supply situation is similar: nearly one billion people, mostly in rural areas, still do not have access to electricity. Or take education, for instance: fewer than half of all children and young people meet the minimum standards for reading and math.

And this is only a partial list, which also shows how far we still have to go. Further advances are urgently needed, and all players – governments, business and civil society alike – must do more and work more closely together to achieve them.

Governments must Create Better Framework Conditions

Governments must more intensively endeavor to create better framework conditions. This applies to investment not just in physical infrastructure such as roads and mobile communications, but also in more equitable institutions and legal security. What’s more, the conditions for innovation must be improved, because we also need further technological advances to solve the problems – and more openness toward new technologies. This applies, for example, to Green Biotechnology, which can help to sustainably increase agricultural productivity and thus feed the growing world population.

International companies, too, play an important role – and thus hold major responsibility. I am even convinced that they have never been as important for driving forward the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals as they are today. That’s because we’re currently experiencing increasing fragmentation around the world. Governments are increasingly occupied with themselves, and national interests are once again being more intensively articulated. In this situation, globally operating companies can help to maintain the momentum of the global sustainability process – by further driving it forward themselves.

We at Bayer Are Working on New and Ambitious Sustainability Goals

That is exactly what we are doing at Bayer. We will maintain and further expand our engagement on behalf of sustainability and responsibility. For example, we are currently working on new and ambitious sustainability goals for the coming decade and are prepared to be judged by whether we meet them. They will be just as important to us as our financial goals.

Here, you can find more information on how our business activities in the areas of agriculture and health care – specifically supplemented by social engagement – contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

There is a saying that faith can move mountains. Ultimately, however, the soft power of conviction must result in specific action. Here everyone can become active in his or her environment – as citizens or company employees, in a club or NGO, or simply in one’s own neighborhood. We shouldn’t always wait for governments – let’s get the ball rolling ourselves. A few tips as to what each of us can do are found here. The major goals of the United Nations – our major goals – are worth every effort.