Offentliggjort den 2. september 2019 / Published on 2 September 2019
Good morning everyone.
And thank you, President, for your introduction.
Today marks a new beginning for all of you as business students, at CBS – it is a special day in your lives. And it is good to see that there are so many of you, as the world urgently needs well educated, engaged, agile, talented young people to tackle the numerous global challenges we are facing.
Your new studies can open a whole world of opportunities; both for yourselves and the environment around you. And as you learn and acquire new skills, your ability to contribute to making a positive impact will also grow.
During the next three years, you will experience tremendous growth both personally and academically. Your lives will be enriched in many ways, one of the most enriching is new friendships. Friendships that may even come to last a lifetime.
This special day always brings me back to my first day at University. I remember clearly the feeling of excitement, mixed with a feeling of being slightly overwhelmed. And I sense a similar atmosphere in this room.
My first day was filled with lecture plans, introductions to new classes and very importantly, social clubs. You, on the other hand, get stuck right in. On your very first day at CBS you are learning about and solving real-life challenges faced by real-life organizations. This is testament to the ever-increasing need for people like you to be part of the transformation we need to see, toward a more sustainable future for people, planet and prosperity.
A sustainable future for people, planet and prosperity with the promise of leaving no-one behind is the essence of the 2030 Agenda which I am sure most of you have heard of or, are already quite familiar with.
The agenda provides for 17 sustainable development goals – the SDGs. And they provide us with a framework or a plan for development. These ambitious, but necessary goals, were adopted by all United Nations member states in 2015. Today, we have only 11 more years to reach these goals - and the clock is ticking - loudly.
This plan is perhaps the most ambitious common plan the world has ever seen. This ambition reflects the severity, complexity and the global nature of the challenges we face. Achieving the 17 goals will require enormous investments, dedicated innovation and far reaching partnerships. It is also important to understand that the plan is relevant to each and every one of us – no matter who we are, where you live or what we have. Because we all bear a responsibility.
I am certain that most of you sitting here today will work with addressing the SDGs, one way or the other, in your future jobs. And even more likely, if your future job is with a Danish company. The SDGs do not only represent areas where we need to see action, they also represent innovation, future business opportunities and potential new markets.
I believe that in the future it will become increasingly difficult to find a company that doesn’t incorporate the SDG’s as part of their strategic planning and core business. It is a company’s responsibility to act consciously and minimize its negative footprint.
As consumers increasingly make choices based on a company’s values and actions. And as talent is attracted to companies with a conscious and sustainable profile, it makes clear business sense to ensure a company’s existence is based on a sustainable business model.
With the right approach, we can turn global challenges into global opportunities. And Danish companies are amongst the frontrunners when it comes to this.
Circular economy, renewable energy, sustainable cities and clean water are just some important avenues that companies, non-governmental organizations and other bodies see as ways to contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The urgency for action that we are experiencing is also leading to a different mindset when it comes to the role of employees. And I am sure that during your studies you will begin to sense the expectations on you to become not only responsible and reflective citizens but, also responsible employees that reflect on how their employer can contribute to solving the world’s challenges. Employees that take initiatives and automatically integrate sustainable thinking and solutions in the way they work.
In the future, holding a job will most likely not only be about filling out a job description. It will be part of your job to be guided by your values and using your own sense of responsibility and innovative thinking to make constructive proposals on how your employer can contribute to the common development agenda. Of course, in compliance with the visions of that company.
This is the type of talent and commitment employers are already competing for – and the competition for employees – for talent - is tough.
I base what I’m saying on the trends we are already seeing. The case you have been presented with today tells the story of one employee from Grundfoss, a company that manufactures water pumps. This employee had an idea to start a project, Water2life - a project to provide access to clean water for people in the poorest areas of the world. The employee and some colleagues presented the idea to senior management of Grundfoss and the project has now been running for 10 years.
Another example is from the employees of Amazon. In April this year, over 8000 employees signed an open letter to the CEO and Board of Directors of Amazon to ask them to adopt a climate plan in response to climate change and the company’s own negative footprint. Thereby, signaling to the world that Amazon is a world climate leader.
Obviously, I have not discussed this with Amazon’s Management but, while Amazon would probably have expected a push from consumers, from NGOs, from the authorities or others I believe that management may have been a little taken a-back to experience such an open and public move from their own ranks.
I am sure that this is a trend we will come to see more of. And what such an open letter can lead to, still remains to be seen.
So, you might as well begin today – on your first day of studies – to reflect on how you can take responsibility for creating a sustainable future, a future we all share.
Through your studies, you will learn how the SDGs are all interconnected. When you focus on one goal, the impact you have will also be seen in the other goals. Therefore, it is important to understand the cause and effect of you actions and to think and act holistically in our actions.
Let me give you an example: about gender equality and the empowerment of women – an area that has my focus. In rural areas of the world with lack of access to improved water sources, women, to this day, continue to spend their days walking back and forth to collect water that is needed to cook, clean, bathe, and of course to drink. This task of collecting water falls mainly on women and children, especially young girls who on average carry water 6 kilometers a day. Can you imagine how time consuming and physically demanding that must be?
Today, the task of carrying water is necessary in sub-Saharan Africa where 319 million people worry about where and how they will get enough water. Addressing SDG number 6 regarding clean water and sanitation is crucial, not only for the health and well-being (SDG 3) of all the people in these areas, but also for achieving gender equality, SDG number 5.
You see, freeing up women and girls’ time by providing solutions that make it unnecessary for them to do their daily walks for water, women and girls will, instead, have time and the opportunity to access their right to education, SDG number 4, which is an important step in achieving gender equality SDG 5. Ultimately, sustainable development cannot be achieved if one gender is denied equal access to quality education.
In this way, by addressing one SDG you also address others, leaving a positive impact beyond what you first intended. Remember, that the opposite can also be true – that by trying to fix one problem, you can end up creating a new one or making an existing one worse. Test – evaluate – modify – test again; is a good rule of thumb when it comes to implementation.
Driving and ensuring the world’s sustainable development is a shared responsibility by governments, the private sector, civil society, organizations and, you and me. It has been stated repeatedly that if we (the world) are to have any chance of achieving the 17 sustainable development goals by 2030, then we must all take responsibility.
So why is Responsibility Day here at CBS important?
This year’s theme for Responsibility Day is ‘How organizations manage dilemmas responsibly’, but you too, as students, will perhaps experience dilemmas in your time here at CBS. You might feel pressured by your peers to act in a way that you feel uncomfortable with or find it difficult to stand up for what you believe and do what you believe to be right. You may feel resentment about having to do the right thing when others don’t appear to have the same sense of obligation. You might even ask yourselves why does it have to be me? Well …..that is because, only YOU can ask yourself to do the right thing even when it is uncomfortable or hard to do so.
I’d like you all to try and remember this day whenever such a situation occurs. Remember to speak up. Remember to use your voice to do what you believe is right.
Thank you for having me here today. I wish you the best of luck with the case competition and with your studies here at CBS.
And as today is Responsibility Day, remember; we all have a responsibility for our common future. It is not a responsibility we can choose to take; it is simply one we have.