2017 Symposium

Making Global Goals Local Business

Pfizer HQ, New York City
17 July, 2017

Taking Action on the Sustainable Development Goals

A Day of Powerful Discussions about Corporate Leadership and Progress toward a Sustainable Future
17 July 2017
8am – 6pm

On July 17th, at a sold-out event, companies, nonprofits, United Nations agencies, and others gathered to discuss how the private sector can take action to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.​ From supporting health to spurring innovation to allocating capital, we discussed a variety of strategies that companies can use to make progress on the Global Goals.

This was not your ordinary conference.

The United Nations Global Compact and partners are busy building the Global Compact Action Platforms. The agenda of the 2017 Symposium was designed around these Action Platforms. The ideas and discussions of the day informed the plans to create real-world change in these areas.


We need you!

This year’s symposium was designed to enable those with shared interests to learn from each other, discuss how to achieve shared goals, and advance progress on the SDGs. Together, we learned, shared, and contributed to leadership on the SDGs. Thank you to all our attendees, speakers, and sponsors. We look forward to hearing any and all ideas that emerged from the 2017 Symposium, and to seeing you at future events, such as the 2018 Symposium!



Keynote address:

Elizabeth Nyamayaro

Head of HeForShe Movement

UN Women

Elizabeth Nyamayaro is the Global Head of the HeForShe Movement and Senior Advisor to the Under-Secretary-General of UN Women. HeForShe is a global solidarity movement to engage men and boys as advocates for gender equality. HeForShe was created by UN Women, the United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Keynote address:

Lise Kingo

CEO and Executive Director

United Nations Global Compact

Lise Kingo is the CEO and Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact, which is the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative with more than 13,500 signatories from 170 countries that have committed to aligning strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and taking actions that advance societal goals.

Plenary conversation:

Communicating Effectively about Climate Change and the Global Goals


Maher Nasser

Acting Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, United Nations


Maher Nasser leads the United Nations Department of Public Information, which has offices in 60 locations worldwide and is responsible for promoting global awareness and understanding of the work of the United Nations.

David Gelber

Executive Producer, Years of Living Dangerously


David Gelber is an Executive Producer of the Years of Living Dangerously television series, which reveals emotional and hard-hitting accounts of the effects of climate change from across the planet.

Our lineup of speakers for the 2017 Symposium included thought leaders from a broad set of organizations and sectors.


Keynote Address: Elizabeth Nyamayaro, Head of HeForShe Movement, UN Women
Key insights from the session:
  • Uplifting half of society means uplifting all of society. Achieving gender equality requires all genders to work together. When we do that, our achievements belong not just to some of us, but to all of us.

  • The HeForShe initiative’s “IMPACT 10x10x10” program engages governments, corporations, and universities around the world to make gender equality an institutional priority. Those who participate commit to transparency about their progress on equal pay, equal work, board composition, and other indicators of gender equality.

Keynote Address: Lise Kingo, CEO and Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact
Key insights from the session:
  • We can do it. In this generation, we can end extreme poverty, provide widespread access to healthcare, achieve gender equality, and put the earth on a more sustainable track.

  • Less than 5,000 days remain until 2030. The clock is ticking, and all leaders need to be clear about their roles and priorities for the future. More companies need to jump on board to support the achievement of the Global Goals. 

Plenary Conversation: Communicating Effectively about Climate Change and the Global Goals


Key insights from the session:

  • Climate change is a unique issue, because if we fail to address it, none of the SDGs will be accomplished. Climate change is undeniable, and we need to go beyond the outcomes described in the Paris Agreement.

  • Climate action is unavoidable. Business opportunities related to solving the climate crisis are expanding rapidly. For example, Norway has declared that they will do more to support electric cars. Companies that seize these opportunities will benefit, while those who don’t will be left behind.

Breakthrough Innovation



Companies that are willing to embrace technological change can transform their business and deliver more sustainable outcomes. Ideas from this session provided inspiration for a technology forum that the Global Compact Network USA plans to hold in the San Francisco Bay area later this year.


  • Rosedel Davies-Adewebi, Senior Manager, Global Compact LEAD, United Nations Global Compact (Moderator)

  • George Harris, Co-Founder, Basil Leaf Technologies

  • Jillian Lennartz, Principal – Corporate Social Responsibility, CA Technologies

  • Hugh Welsh, President, DSM North America

Key insights from the session:

  • Even for established companies, it is possible to completely switch business models. DSM started in the coal industry, and now focuses on nutrition, biomedical, and health-related products—with sustainability a key aspect of their current business model.

  • Companies can use the SDGs at multiple scales. CA Technologies looks at the SDGs to inspire innovation at the corporate level, as well as to engage employees at a personal level.

Business for Humanitarian Action and Peace



Over 65 million people have been forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. Furthermore, due to the scale, complexity, duration, and recurring nature of today’s crises, the current humanitarian system is increasingly overstretched. As a result, governments, the United Nations, and other partners are turning to the private sector for support. Companies have the technical expertise and experience that affords them the opportunity to address many development and humanitarian challenges. So, what can companies do to address peace and humanitarian crises? How can business leadership extend beyond philanthropic endeavors into more strategic engagement in these challenges?


  • Julie Jenson, Director, Corporate Responsibility, Pfizer

  • Jane Meseck, Senior Director, Global Programs, Microsoft Philanthropies

  • Tiina Mylly, Manager, Governance and Peace, United Nations Global Compact (Moderator)

Key insights from the session:

  • There is a pressing need for corporate action on humanitarian issues. More people are now displaced from their homes than ever before, and the average length of displacement is 17 years. The violence that causes this displacement costs the world 13.6 percent of GDP. The traditional humanitarian system is insufficient to address the needs of these people, and the United Nations has called on the private sector to help, through the global compacts on migration and refugees.

  • Rapidly evolving crises necessitate an evolution of strategy. Pfizer’s response to the Syrian conflict began in 2015 with cash grants. As the company learned more about the crisis, it came to understood that vaccines are a key way the company can contribute. Pfizer developed a three-prong approach, which included: 1) Donations, 2) Humanitarian pricing for civil society organizations, and 3) Transferring sales proceeds to nonprofits working on the conflict. Microsoft Philanthropies saw a parallel evolution in its strategy for contributing to humanitarian causes. It began mostly with cash grants for natural disasters, but added software/service donations and partnerships to its repertoire. They use a decision matrix to prioritize how they can help.

Decent Work in Global Supply Chains


Achieving sustained economic growth depends upon supporting those who work in global supply chains. Promoting decent work and respect for worker’s rights can help reduce poverty, share the benefits of globalization, and provide dignity for all. How can United Nations principles and frameworks guide companies in addressing labor issues in their supply chain? What other kinds of support can the United Nations provide to help companies make progress in this area?


  • Anita Househam, Senior Manager, Global Compact LEAD and Supply Chain Sustainability, United Nations Global Compact (Moderator)

  • Justine Shakespeare, Program Manager, Verité

  • Erick Zeballos, Acting Director, International Labour Organization – Washington DC

Key insights from the session:

  • Government action on human rights is accelerating in the United States. The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which went into effect in 2012, drove a lot of discussions among companies domiciled in California about eradicating slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains. In 2016, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act closed a loophole that had allowed goods produced unethically to enter the United States. And in July 2017, a bipartisan vote in U.S. Congress reauthorized the country’s most comprehensive law to prevent human trafficking. Currently, the State Department and the Labor Department are developing tools related to these issues for business.

  • Supply chain issues are gender issues. In many sectors, the majority of supply chain workers are women. They face discrimination, lower pay, and human rights abuses. This is especially so in the non-formal parts of supply chains.  There is a very strong connection between SDG 5 (Gender Equality) and SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth).

Financial Innovation for the SDGs



It is estimated that pursuing strategies to achieve the SDGs could create over $12 trillion in market value and 380 million new jobs. But achieving these returns will require investment at a scale beyond what we see today. Thus, the challenge to the business and investment communities is to create and scale financial instruments to direct private and public funds towards achieving the SDGs. How do the various actors in the financial system contribute to this endeavor? What types of financial innovations have recently been used that can help achieve the SDGs? How do we measure the impact of these tools?


  • Evan Harvey, Global Head of Sustainability, Nasdaq (Moderator)

  • Rick Pearl, Vice President, Corporate Citizenship, State Street

  • Val Smith, Director, Corporate Sustainability, Citi

Key insights from the session:

  • Some work is being done around private financing the SDGs, but not enough. For instance, there are currently no investment funds that target achievement of the SDGs. However, examples such as Nasdaq’s Financial Innovation Platform—which aims to attract more institutions to SDG efforts—suggest that we may see an uptick in the coming years.

  • Teaching old dogs new tricks. There may be an opportunity to take longstanding financial products—such as bonds and securitization—and enhance them for the purposes of financing the SDGs.

Health is Everyone's Business



Improving human health is an immensely complex task. It requires the consideration of a seemingly infinite set of factors, such as medicines, insurance, food, environmental risks, healthcare facilities, and so on. How can companies that want to improve health—through their products or for their employees, for example—understand the issues holistically, while focusing sufficiently to make a measurable impact? Our conversation aimed to shed light on this challenge, as applied to other complex issues as well.


  • Shaun Mickus, Executive Director, Social Business Practices, Johnson & Johnson

  • Loyce Pace, Executive Director, Global Health Council (Moderator)

  • Dr. Dick Salmon, National Medical Director, Performance Measurement and Improvement, Cigna

Key insights from the session:

  • Having a big impact requires collaboration. Working alone, Cigna won’t be able to achieve its goal of reducing customer opioid use by 25% over three years. But by convening community forums, funding research by universities, providing grants, and collaborating with more than 65,000 doctors, they have already decreased opioid use by 12%. Similarly, Johnson & Johnson can’t achieve its SDG goals alone; it is working with hundreds of partners around the world, including nonprofits, governments, and other companies.

  • Do your groundwork before launching a big initiative. Before Johnson & Johnson announced its SDG plans, 60-70 employees were engaged to explain what they knew about the company’s existing activities, offer their opinions on how to commit to the Global Goals, and brainstorm about what the company could uniquely bring to the table. And that is on top of 30+ years of goal-setting around environmental health, the Millennium Development Goals, and other initiatives. Likewise, when Cigna decided to address the opioid crisis head-on, it was able to build upon pre-established work and relationships in order to scale up its efforts quickly.

Inclusion and Gender Equality: Is Business Ready to Take a Stand?


From non-discrimination policies, to inclusive sourcing strategies, to innovative recruitment practices, there are a range of ways that the private sector can - and is - promoting equal opportunity and supporting disadvantaged groups. However, what is the role of business when it comes to challenging inequality and tackling discrimination beyond company walls?  Business stakeholders - whether employees, business partners or customers - often face significant barriers to economic and social inclusion. From laws that limit employment access to stereotypes and discourses that deepen patterns of hostility, mistrust and disrespect, how can business be an advocate for change?


  • Lauren Gula, Senior Manager, Social Sustainability and Gender Equality, United Nations Global Compact (Moderator)

  • Fabrice Houdart, Human Rights Officer, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

  • JoAnn Strickon, Global Sustainability Manager, ManpowerGroup

Key insights from the session:

  • Companies should take a public stand on inclusion issues when the issues are connected to the company’s culture, values, and strategy. An example was seen in 2016 when many companies publicly criticized the North Carolina bill that would have denied people the use of restrooms of the gender with which they identify.

  • Corporate headquarters and local operations must collaborate and communicate. Diversity and inclusion efforts are less effective when local operations feel that the corporate office is pushing directives that are not tailored to their locale. Central corporate offices should ask each regional office about their specific diversity challenges.

Measuring Impact of Community Engagement on the SDGs (Hosted by Blackbaud)


Companies are being pushed to demonstrate the positive impact of their philanthropic giving and employee volunteer programs in their local communities.  At the same time, many companies are struggling with how to go beyond just measuring outputs to tracking the outcomes and impact of their efforts. This breakout focused on how to actualize the SDG framework to connect and measure your company's community engagement efforts, and how to educate your community partners on the importance of measuring local impact on the SDGs.


  • Michelle DiSabato, Impact Advisor, Corporate & Foundation Solutions, Blackbaud

Key insights from the session:

  • Companies are increasingly focusing on measuring philanthropic achievements, rather than just outputs. Rather than measuring just top-level information such as the number of grants or the dollar value, companies are trying to tangibly show how their giving has made people’s lives better.

  • The same is true of employee volunteerism and in-kind donations; companies’ measurement is moving from effort to outcomes and impact.

Pathways to Low-Carbon and Resilient Development



With the Paris Agreement in force, we must now turn to the question of how to achieve the goals stated in the agreement. Businesses and governments at all levels in the United States have developed all manner of solutions: carbon pricing, science-based goals, renewable energy procurement, adaptation measures, policy engagement, and others. Which of these are proving to be successful, and how can they be expanded?


  • Eliot Metzger, Senior Associate, Business Center, World Resources Institute (Moderator)

  • Lorraine Smith, Associate Director, Volans

  • David Tulauskas, Director, Sustainability, General Motors

  • Maxfield Weiss, Global Social & Environmental Responsibility Manager, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Key insights from the session:

  • For leading companies to reduce their climate impacts, it is essential to engage and support the supply chain. Business-to-business companies in the supply chain have been shielded from consumer pressure about their emissions, but corporate customer requests can motivate action. In 2017, HPE set a goal to require 80% of their suppliers to set science-based targets within their own operations by 2025.

  • The social aspects—rather than environmental—of climate change resonate most. For example, the social benefits of avoiding deforestation are more compelling to many people than the environmental ones. We need to put a human face on climate change.


Reporting on the SDGs


Many companies have begun to align the content of their sustainability reports with the SDGs. Best practices for reporting on the SDGs, however, have yet to be established or integrated into major reporting frameworks. The UNGC and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) have partnered to formalize the communication of corporate progress on the SDGs, and this session served to discuss issues related to formalization of reporting on the SDGs.


  • Sue Allchurch, Chief of Partnerships, Fund Raising, and Communication, United Nations Global Compact (Moderator)

  • John Edelman, Managing Director, Global Engagement and Corporate Responsibility, Edelman

  • Dawn Emling, Global Head of Strategy and Sustainability Initiatives, Thomson Reuters

  • Alyson Genovese, Head of Corporate/Stakeholder Relations, U.S. and Canada, Global Reporting Initiative

Key insights from the session:

  • There has been a notable increase in awareness about SDGs, but reporting is not standardized. More than half of 2017 corporate social responsibility reports mention the SDGs, compared to 20 percent in 2016. SDGs have been mapped to corporate social responsibility frameworks, but standards for reporting on the SDGs do not yet exist.

  • New resources about SDG reporting will be published in the coming months and years. The Global Reporting Initiative, for example, will be publishing a set of best practices in September 2017, and in 2018 will focus on tool development for companies.

Please reload

To learn more about the Global Compact Action Platforms upon which many of these sessions were based, or to contact the platform leaders, visit the Global Compact's Action Platform website.



Host Sponsor
Supporting Sponsor
Premium Sponsor
Supporting Sponsor

​​Global Compact Network USA extends warm thanks to the sponsors of the 2017 Symposium. To discuss sponsorship opportunities for future events, contact Kevin Kromash at kevin@globalcompactusa.org


About Network USA

Launched in 2007, the Global Compact Network USA (GCNUSA) is the local network chapter of the United Nations Global Compact. Network USA is a non-profit organization that supports U.S.-based entities in:

  • Operating in alignment with the Ten Principles of the Global Compact

  • Engaging with and advancing the Sustainable Development Goals

  • Leveraging their association with the Global Compact and United Nations and its global resource network

  • Facilitating and creating opportunities for multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder collaboration

For more information, visit our website: www.GlobalCompactUSA.org





Civil Society




Past Events