Thomas Gass, United Nations: Private sector plays ‘crucial role’ in creating a low carbon future

Ilario D'Amato
24 February 2016

Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations

NEW YORK: The private sector must ensure sustainable jobs and invest in green technologies, says Thomas GassAssistant Secretary General of the United Nations, in an exclusive interview on The Climate Group’s digital channel Climate TV.

Following the historic adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Thomas Gass has called for the private sector to play its part in creating the “shared vision of humanity” the goals represent.

The UN Assistant Secretary General has asked for leaders in both the public and private sectors to implement the SDGs in their respective countries and industries. He told Climate TV: “This wasn't about the photo opportunity, this was about the promise that the leaders made to their people back home that this is a shared vision of humanity that they have all signed upon.”

The SDGs were adopted by the world leaders of 193 United Nations members in September 2015, during Climate Week NYC, organized by The Climate Group. Climate Week NYC saw actors from across civil society, sub-national governments and business come together to make bold, long-term commitments to a low carbon future.

The SDGs aim to tackle global problems including climate change, hunger and inequality by 2030. The goals comprise of 17 interlinked themes, including access to clean energy and building sustainable buildings.

As Thomas Gass explained, the SDGs also send a strong message to businesses: “The private sector has responsibility as an employer, because the core of this agenda is about eradicating poverty, it is about reducing inequalities. And so the main role of the private sector is as an employer. Pay your people properly, give them decent jobs and when the pressure of the cost starts rising and makes it difficult to make a two digit profit – keep those jobs.”

While he emphasized the importance of the private sector in providing sustainable jobs, Thomas Gass also stressed that there are many other roles the private sector should contribute to the realization of the SDGs. “Companies can also contribute by investing into greener technologies, in mainstreaming sustainability into the functioning of their companies but also into the discussions of their boards and into the discussions that they have with their shareholders.” He added: “The shareholders are going to start to look at the longer perspective because only then can they thrive – when there is stability in the long term.”

text by Antonia Jennings, video by Ilario D'Amato

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