Unilever and Sainsbury's among funders for Prince of Wales SDG programme

More than a dozen big-name businesses, including Unilever, Asda and Sainsbury's, have teamed up to work on a Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) initiative to support progress towards the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The money will fund a group of at up to 15 fellows to research potential SDG breakthroughs for three years

The money will fund a group of at up to 15 fellows to research potential SDG breakthroughs for three years

Called the Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellowship Programme, in recognition of CISL's patron Prince Charles, the £3.6m initiative will see postgraduate students develop a standardised measurement framework for natural and social capital, create strategies to boost business resilience in the face of climate challenges, and investigate how trends of innovation and sustainability will shape the future of each sector. 

The corporations will fund up to 15 students to undertake a three-year research course at the University of Cambridge to mobilise evidence on the world’s most pressing societal, economic and environmental issues.

“Meeting the UN SDGs will require the biggest transformation the world has ever faced, and it will take all stakeholders to pull it off - governments, the private sector, civil society and academia,” the UN Global Compact’s chief executive, Lise Kingo, said.

“The Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellowship Programme will provide a critical meeting point for the exchange of ideas in the development of solutions, and the evidence base for the urgent action that is required.”

Call to corporate action

The funding announcement comes shortly after the UN warned that the world is currently off-track to meet most of the 17 Global Goals by 2030, with climate change, conflict between nations and population increases bringing fresh challenges as time passes.

Indeed, the conclusions of the latest iteration of the UN’s report have spurred many sustainability leaders in the business sphere, including Unilever’s chief executive Paul Polman, to re-consider how academics and nations could work with corporations to spur faster and more impactful action.

“We need to work with many others including in academia, to push forward the boundaries of knowledge and collaboration, and to design better ways to do business,” Polman said.

Echoing Polman’s sentiments, Anglian Water’s chief executive, Peter Simpson, said that collaboration with academics could help businesses move towards making “evidenced-based decisions” on the use of both social and natural capital in the near future.

Sarah George


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