The importance of the social dimension of the sustainable development goals

Date: Monday, June 18, 2012

Remarks by Michelle Bachelet Executive Director of UN Women on the Importance of the Social Dimension of the SDGs at the Closing Plenary of the Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 18 June 2012.

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I thank the speakers before me for their overviews and remarks.

I commend the UN Global Compact for being a strong partner to UN Women and for putting the role of business and women's empowerment front and center.

In the lead-up to the Rio+20 conference and now here at the Corporate Sustainability Forum and the Conference itself, it is clear that we cannot speak of any one dimension of sustainable development - or the goals- in isolation.

We will not be able to tackle environmental decline, rising inequality and economic uncertainty unless we take a comprehensive and inclusive approach.

The status quo is not an option. We need a new approach, a new paradigm that puts human being at the centre of development. We need to understand that fully taking into account the social dimension of sustainability is not only the right and just thing to do, it is also the only way that we will successfully actually achieve sustainable development.

As some of you might know, I recently had the honor to chair the ILO led Social Protection Floor Initiative. One of the most important lessons of the report that we produced is that social policies are not about charity. On the contrary, social policies are empowerment tools.

When you ensure that people have access to health, education and decent and adequate housing, you give them an opportunity to use their full potential. By reducing poverty and tackling inequalities, you boost demand and stimulate economies to the benefit of all.

And let me be clear here. When I talk about unleashing the potential of people, I mean unleashing the potential of all people, including women. As you will hear me say time and again this week, a prosperous world, a sustainable world, a world in balance, requires gender equality.

Brazil has fully understood the positive and transformative power of social policies. The Bolsa Familia grants, for instance, provides the poorest families with cash if their children attend school, are vaccinated and if pregnant women receive pre-and post-natal care. Educated citizens and healthy women are more likely, in turn, to find employment and give back to society.

In Chile, we saw how expanding childcare facilities and putting in place a number of other social policies resulted directly in an increased participation of women in the labour force

My message to all the representatives of the private sector here today is therefore that business should actively support social policies both because these policies are just and because they create the conditions in which business can thrive.

My message is also that we need to ensure all together that the Sustainable Development Goals that will be decided upon here in Rio, or later elsewhere, fully integrate the social dimension of development, including the criticality to ensure gender equality and women's empowerment.

Finally, I urge you to make women's empowerment and equality a priority of your own companies. Business can adopt special measures to empower women as producers and consumers throughout the value chain in the green economy - as well as internally to ensure that all employees, including women, have truly equal opportunities for participation in decision-making and for balancing work and family life.

I thank you for making your business equality.