Foreword by Henrik O. Madsen
Former President & Chief Executive Officer DNV GL Group
Henrik O. Madsen
Former President & Chief Executive Officer
DNV GL Group

What are the next great challenges, the next great leaps and the next great pioneers in the movement for sustainable business?

The answers to these questions can profile the future of not just corporate sustainability but the entire world economy and indeed shape the space in which future generations will live and pursue their dreams and ambitions.

Faced with questions of this magnitude, we should always be careful about the answers we offer. However, if ever there was a group of people to whom we should listen for inspiration in these matters, it is the contributors to this book.

When DNV GL was chosen to do the 15th anniversary assessment report for the United Nations Global Compact, it was clear to us that we would need to look ahead. Even though we would map and analyse the developments and strides forward made in the past 15 years, the reason for doing so was to create greater clarity of vision when looking into the future of corporate sustainability.

This perspective is an integral part of the assessment report presented to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the 15th anniversary celebrations. However, we also felt that there was more in the material than could be conveyed in a traditional report. We had gathered stories of great insights and inspiration that we wanted to share.

This is why we have made this publication. It is a collection of unique stories on the importance of corporate sustainability and on what is next for businesses who seek to be active, engaged and responsible corporate citizens.

The stories are mostly hopeful, sometimes worried but always passionate. They give me reason to share a few points of inspiration.

First, many of the people interviewed believe we will see an even greater focus on transparency, including transparency in the sense of making the benefits of sustainable business visible. There is a need for better metrics to measure the benefits for all stakeholders of making business sustainable. Initiatives are under way, but many of the leaders in this book express an understandable impatience in this matter.

If properly designed, better sustainability metrics could probably also have a great influence on the second prominent theme I wish to mention, the need to engage a wider part of the business. Many contributors express the hope that the local Global Compact networks can become stronger. This leads to a third theme that is prominent in several interviews: governance.

The local networks have been praised for their and their member businesses’ ability to enter into a national-policy dialogue and help embed the Global Compact principles in standards and smarter regulations. In many ways, forward-looking businesses are the spearhead of a sustainability transition – not by default but by intent. We have indeed come a long way since the business of business was just business.

This is not a reason to pat each other on the back and say: “Job well done”. There is too much work ahead for that. But reading these interviews gives me hope and confidence that no matter what comes next from the group represented in this book and from the Global Compact membership as such, it will be no less than revolutionary.

I want to express my sincere gratitude to all the contributors to this book. They have found the time to share their insights and visions not only to make us wiser, but also to entertain us. There is also a fair amount of humour and high spirits in the interviews. I believe this is part of what we need to maintain too. If we are too narrowly focused on the problems, we miss the great stories on the importance of people, leadership and engagement that the contributors have shared.

Let’s instead look for the ideas, opportunities and solutions that are indeed out there. Let’s explore what’s next.

I wish you an inspiring read.