Real Leaders

Forward Faster

The UN asks companies to help accelerate progress on 5 Sustainable Development Goals.

By Real Leaders

Only 15% of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are on track for 2030, and the UN is calling upon the private sector to help improve that number.

The UN identified five action areas for companies: gender equality, climate action, living wage, finance and investment, and water resilience. These targets can accelerate progress across all 17 SDGs and are where the private sector can collectively make the biggest, fastest impact by 2030, the UN says. They also help build more resilient companies and can lead to positive corporate returns.

The UN’s Forward Faster initiative aims to increase accountability and transparency by calling for companies to publicly declare their commitments, highlight the actions they will undertake, and report on progress annually to the UN Global Compact, which provides a framework to guide all businesses regardless of size, complexity, or location. 

Gender Equality

At the current rate, it will take over 160 years to achieve gender equality in terms of women’s economic empowerment and participation.

Companies can increase profitability and performance by ensuring inclusive workplaces and parity in their workforce. When women are empowered and included, economies grow, communities thrive, and businesses flourish. By taking action on gender equality, companies can gain important advantages:

  • When women serve as leaders and employees of companies, businesses benefit and performance improves.
  • On average across countries, long-run GDP per capita would be almost 20% higher if gender employment gaps were closed.
  • When boardrooms are gender balanced, enterprises are 2% more likely to have improved business outcomes.
  • Gender equality in the workplace can help unlock more than $12 trillion in new market value linked to the SDGs.


Target 1: Equal representation, participation, and leadership across all levels of management by 2030.

Target 2: Equal pay for work of equal value by 2030.

Climate Action
In order to limit global warming to 34.7°F above pre-industrial levels, emissions need to be cut in half by 2030.

Businesses can protect themselves from long-term volatility by working toward net zero and a just transition. Taking climate action will help future-proof businesses. Here’s how taking ambitious action in this area benefits companies:

  • Improve efficiency and cut operating costs by reducing energy usage and emissions.
    Strengthen companies’ reputation with customers, suppliers, investors, and regulators whilst reducing companies’ exposure to climate risks.
  • Stay one step ahead of policy changes and climate regulations.
  • Ensure businesses leave no one behind in the transition to an environmentally sustainable economy.


Target 1: Set corporate science-based net-zero emissions reductions targets in line with a 34.7°F pathway with the goal of halving global emissions by 2030 and reaching net-zero by 2050 at the latest.

Target 2: Contribute to a just transition by taking concrete actions that address social impacts of climate change mitigation and adaptation measures in partnership with actors such as workers, unions, communities, and suppliers.

Living Wage
Over a billion working people worldwide — one third of all workers — are estimated to earn less than they need to afford a decent standard of living.

Companies can reduce inequalities and build more resilient supply chains by ensuring a living wage across their workforce. By paying living wages, companies can improve productivity and gain important advantages:

  • Reduce staff turnover and absenteeism, increase retention and motivation, attract new talent, and increase staff productivity.
  • Improve supply chain relationships, performance, resilience, and transparency.
  • Create a pathway to tackle poverty and reduce inequalities.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to respecting and promoting the human rights of workers.


Target 1: One-hundred percent of employees across the organization earn a living wage by 2030.

Target 2: Establish a joint action plan(s) with contractors, supply chain partners, and other key stakeholders to work toward achieving living wages and/or living incomes with measurable and time-bound milestones.

Finance and Investment
The world will need to spend between $3–5 trillion annually to meet the SDGs by 2030.

Shifting corporate capital towards the SDGs is critical to closing existing financing gaps. Aligning financial strategies with the SDGs unlocks new revenue possibilities. By taking action in this area, companies can increase performance and gain new opportunities: 

  • Attract investors and open up new avenues for capital investment 
  • Protect long-term financial performance and avoid potential legal and reputational issues.
  • Identify and mitigate risks associated with environmental, social, and governance factors.
  • Attract top talent who prioritize purpose-driven work and seek employers committed to sustainability.
  • Expand into new markets and attract environmentally and socially conscious customers.


Target 1: To the fullest extent possible, align corporate investment with SDG policies and strategies, set targets, and track and report on the amount and proportion of such SDG investments.

Target 2: Establish a corporate financing strategy linked to SDG investments and performance, and report on the amount and proportion of such SDG finance.

Water Resilience
More than 2 billion people lack safe drinking water. It’s estimated there will be a 40% gap between available water and demand for water by 2030.

Companies can increase efficiency and reduce supply chain disruption while helping vulnerable communities in water-challenged regions. Building water resilience at your organization can improve business performance and accelerate growth. Taking ambitious action in this area will help businesses:

  • Reduce potential business risks caused by water challenges (operational and supply chain).
  • Enhance companies’ reputation in the communities you operate and with your investors.
  • Profoundly impact the ability to fulfill the UN human right to water and sanitation and broader SDGs.
  • Support ecosystems that capture, filter, and store water resources, while supporting biodiversity and helping reduce the impacts of climate change.


Target 1: Build water resilience across global operations and supply chains and join hands to achieve collective positive water impact in at least 100 vulnerable prioritized water basins by 2030. 

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