Let sustainable development drive UK’s recovery, PM told

The bosses of Unilever, HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland are among 150 business, charity and trade body leaders urging Boris Johnson to put UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) at the centre of the UK’s Covid-19 recovery plans.

In a letter addressed to the prime minister, they called on the UK government to view the crisis as an “opportunity” to tackle looming problems including inequality and the climate crisis.

“It is clear that many aspects of our lives will never be the same again. Some industries may never recover from this crisis. We must use this challenging situation as an opportunity to work together with our global and national partners alike, to build a stronger and more resilient economy with the SDGs at its heart,” the letter said.

The sustainable development goals, which were set by the UN in 2015, aim to achieve 17 core goals by 2030. They include eradicating poverty and hunger, achieving gender equality, protecting the oceans and taking urgent action to combat the climate crisis.

The letter, which was coordinated by the UN Global Compact Network UK, said the UK should use the SDGs to promote plans for a more resilient economy, address regional and social inequalities and build “coherent policies” to help reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“Covid-19 has exposed the depth of inequalities and risks exposing more families to income deprivation and its consequences … We need to ensure that our recovery from the pandemic leaves no one behind and puts the health and wellbeing of current and future generations first,” signatories said.

“The pandemic has also highlighted the risks the world faces due to biodiversity and habitat loss, as well as the climate crisis,” the letter added. “We must balance social and economic needs with the needs of our planet, protecting and managing nature and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. These goals do not have to be in conflict.”

Business leaders backing the letter include the chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Alison Rose, HSBC’s chief, Noel Quinn, Standard Life Aberdeen’s boss, Keith Skeoch, the head of education group Pearson, John Fallon, the chief of InterContinental Hotels Group, Keith Barr, and the chief executive of advertising giant WPP, Mark Read.

Number 10 had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

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