IMPACT 2030 Summit at UN Sets Course for Corporate Employee Volunteerism and Sustainable Development (Part 1)

By Bill Blackburn, Chair of the IMPACT 2030 Measurement Advisory Committee.

IMPACT 2030 is heeding a call. In his 2015 report to the United Nations General Assembly titled, Integrating Volunteering in the Next Decade, UN Secretary General’s Ban Ki-moon observed, “Volunteerism could be a powerful and cross-cutting means of implementing the (sustainable development) agenda (and) could expand and mobilize constituencies and engage people in the sustainable development goals…” Therefore, he continued, “As Governments monitor overall progress in reaching the (UN’s new) sustainable development goals, it will be important that the contribution of volunteerism is captured and embedded in any reporting mechanisms.”

Thus, IMPACT 2030 was born to specifically encourage corporations to focus their employee volunteer efforts on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2015-2030 and to measure the impact of such efforts on the progress on those goals. The organization’s inaugural Summit in New York City this September provided inspiration, understanding and a practical way forward for fulfilling this purpose.

At the Summit, we heard from a broad range of informative and inspiring speakers. Both Sir Ken Robinson, the popular UK author and speaker on creativity and innovation, and Ian Bremmer, the well-known author, speaker and TV commentator on global political risk, delivered entertaining and sometimes eye-raising speeches at the UN on the global trends that underscore the vital importance of the UN’s 17 new Sustainable Development Goals. Indeed, these goals address many of the biggest and growing threats to the well-being of society everywhere—poverty, disease, access to education, gender equality, climate change, water resources, biodiversity, and others—some of which are being exacerbated, some helped, by the ever inevitable globalization. How well we do on these goals will, in large measure, dictate the kind of world we leave for our children, our children’s children and all who come after them.

We also heard from some of the corporate leaders in employee volunteerism—SAP, GSK, UPS, and IBM— among others. They underscored the importance of such volunteerism, both to their firms as well as to the employees themselves, and reaffirmed their companies’ commitments to encourage even greater devotion of such efforts to the SDGs. Clearly, the time has come for corporate employee volunteerism to take its rightful place as a resource for global development as prominent element of corporate social responsibility and sustainability. This was clear not just from these speakers but, from the large array of IMPACT 2030 corporate partners in attendance, and from the NGOs around the globe who are gearing their body of work to furthering such volunteerism. And even Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia was there to lend his strong voice of support for employee volunteerism. As a sustainable development expert familiar with, but not steeped in corporate employee volunteerism, I found the momentum forming around such efforts impressive. This momentum, boosted with support from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, comes now at the same time the SDGs are also garnering acclaim from world-wide leaders, including the Pope. Indeed, an important take-away from the Summit was an awareness that IMPACT 2030 is occupying the sweet spot of convergence of two influential initiatives, which will make the organization and its objectives of ever increasing value and public attention as time goes by. IMPACT 2030 Chair Grady Lee, Executive Director Tauni Lanier, and other members of the organizations leadership, provided all of us with confidence about the organization’s commitment and plans for moving forward on this convergence and momentum in a serious way. The plans were given some flesh through the breakout session of participants and presented a glimpse of the exiting and important achievements we all hope will come.