This week sees one of the most important events in Earth's recent history, so please pay attention... On Friday, world leaders will gather at the UN to ratify the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development, and set a path for 2030 to eradicate poverty, tackle inequality and fix climate change. Yep, it's pretty significant.
This matters to all of us, as without everyone's involvement it won't be achieved, and the resulting social, economic and environmental effects of inaction will be devastating. This is why everyone from the Pope to Branson, Clinton and even the mighty Beyoncé are gathering in New York for the summit. This is why Stephen Hawking made this short video that he wants you to share.
So what are these goals? They build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which you've probably never heard of, set in 2000 and expiring this year. Whilst those have led to some significant changes and proven global goals can make an impact, they have also fallen short in a number of ways - nearly a quarter of humanity continues to live on less than $2 per day, and inequality, environmental degradation and climate change have worsened. (In 2013, global carbon dioxide emissions were 61% higher than they were in 1990.)
The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are wider reaching, with 17 goals and 169 associated targets. They have been built over the past two years by the 193 member states - they include tackling health, hunger, peace, education, equality, employment - the complete list is here. And whilst the MDGs focused primarily on the social agenda and targeted developing countries, the SDGs will apply to the entire world and reflect the fact that economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection are all interconnected elements of sustainable development.
This connectedness is the theme of Naomi Klein's incredible book, 'This Changes Everything', which takes on climate change and shows how it cannot be addressed without systematically changing our social and economic structures to be fairer. It is the most important book I have read in years. Some scientists are saying we have reached 'Decade Zero' of the climate crisis: we either change now or we lose our chance. In December, world leaders meet again in Paris for COP 21, the UN Climate Change Conference, to agree to limit warming to 2 degrees. It might sound small but make no mistake, even that will fundamentally change the planet (sea levels rising by over half a metre and significant increases in catastrophic weather) and will require considerable international effort to realise.
So none of this easy - and that's where you come in. Looking at the SDGs there are things that you can do. The first step is to be more aware - you can only act with conscience and hold leaders to account if you understand why this is significant - "If the goals are famous, they can't be forgotten". That's why the filmmaker Richard Curtis is spearheading the project Global Goals, which aims to encourage general public engagement with the SDGs. On the website you'll find guides, resources, and information to ensure you can have a voice.
The second step is to demand more of (your) businesses: the SDGs cannot be achieved without the muscle and might of business. Many businesses are waking up to their role in this. In our recent 'Business to Society' study, we highlighted that good business is good for business, revealing the appetite business leaders and consumers have for businesses to play a greater role in tackling pressing social and environmental issues, and the way consumers reward progressive businesses - those with a clearly communicated and engaging social purpose - with their custom. You can see the results here.
The development of the responsible business agenda takes another timely step forward on Thursday with the launch of the B Corps, or Benefit Corporation, movement in the UK. The status is only awarded to "socially conscious businesses that meet externally audited rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency". I'm very proud to say that Forster is one of the first to qualify, and I hope many more join the current vanguard.
So share more and ask more - these SDGs are for you. Sustainable development is defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Right now, we are not doing that but this week, we have the chance to change everything.