Fundamental assumptions about business are set to change: UN official

Companies have “a very clear vested interest” to embrace sustainable development as a functioning economy and stable political system are important for the businesses, Steiner said.

In addition, “inequality as we are observing right now across the world is becoming a major destabilizer,” he added.

Rapid climate changes could also disrupt existing market conditions often taken for granted by corporate leaders, he said.

A recent UN climate change report predicted that world temperatures are on track to rise by around 3 degrees Celsius — a number that is substantially above the target to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“In the world of business you often have to rely on ‘givens’. You can virtually throw away every scenario about your business and your future markets, your supply chains out of the window. Because by 2050, we will have a world in which many of the fundamental assumptions” may not hold, Steiner warned.

Sustainable Development Goals can provide a framework for businesses to better handle unpredictable market changes in the future, he said. SDGs refer to targets set by the UN to address global challenges such as climate change, poverty and environmental degradation by 2030.

By addressing some of the 17 goals, firms will have a framework to better understand the different business environments and markets they would have to adjust to in the future, Steiner said.

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