The World Bank to stop financing oil and gas projects, Iceland imposes wage equality between men and women by law, 2017 is still one of the three warmest years on record, France passes a historic law that criminalises human rights violation by its multinationals, and many more headlines on issues related to sustainable development set the scene last year and drove many of the trends forward, some of them inexorably.
This is the first of three articles that seek to provide an overview of the key sustainable development issues in 2017 that will shape the media agenda in 2018. Below is a list, by themes, of issues that will help you understand emerging news on sustainability.
Latest milestones and trends in SDG, HR, employees and gender equality
Sustainable Development Goals, shared road map
A number of countries and companies are voluntarily accepting the responsibility of contributing to the sustainability roadmap adopted by 193 member states of the United Nations. Last year, 43 countries published their Voluntary National Reviews on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as many states are reviewing their national policies in order to align them with the 169 targets contained in the 2030 Agenda. These goals give businesses a global reference framework that enables them to measure their contribution, and many of them have aligned their indicators with those of the SDGs using the SDG Compass.
Legislative progress in human rights
"Modern slavery" is not just an issue for NGOs. First the United Kingdom, and now Australia, have promulgated laws against modern slavery that require due diligence in connection with human rights in companies' supply chains.
This trend towards stricter regulation is also visible in France, where, for the first time, companies are required to implement surveillance plans to monitor the performance of their supply chain. Another example in 2017 was The Netherlands, which adopted a law on due diligence in connection with child labour, providing for prison sentences for company executives.
Employees: digital disconnection
As a result of permanent connectedness via smartphones and other technology, 71% of European executives check their email at night, on weekends or on holidays.This has resulted in a number of similar initiatives in the private sector, such as insurer AXA, and the public sector, such as France, with the aim of strengthening employees' right to disconnect from their work.
The silence on sexual abuse and gender equality has been broken
Named "Person of the year" by Time magazine, the women who broke the silence about sexual abuse have marked a watershed. Apart from the media coverage, this has created a debate about the need to introduce stronger legislation against harassment, as France is doing.
The wage gap and a number of measures to eliminate it also made headlines around the world. According to the United Nations, on average women are still earning about 23% less than men for the same job. As a result, countries are now finding they must regulate employers in order to eliminate the wage gap. Pre-existing examples, such as legislation in Massachusetts that forbids prospective employers from asking candidates about their current earnings in order to prevent a perpetuation of low salaries among women, were reinforced in 2017 with new regulations such as that introduced in Iceland, requiring employers to pay women and men the same wage for the same work, and in Germany, which entitles women to know how much their male co-workers earn.
Gender inequality is also reflected in high-level decision-making in the public and private spheres. As a result, the last climate summit (COP23) decided to create a Gender Action Plan to ensure that women are represented and can exert influence decisions about climate change on an equal footing with men.
This link will take you to the second part of Latest headlines about sustainability that you will continue to see in 2018.