Speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the Unilever dinner ‘Transformative change for a brighter future’

Speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the Unilever dinner ‘Transformative change for a brighter future’ in New York, 22 September 2014

Your Majesty,
Your Excellencies,
ladies and gentlemen,

I recently read in the paper about a new study at the University of Wageningen. Researchers there are analysing the DNA of generations of Dutch dairy cows. This genetic information tells them whether a cow is likely to produce a lot of milk and whether it will remain healthy. That way, productive cows can be bred without the need for antibiotics. Smart research like this helps feed more mouths and improves animal welfare. And that's what sustainable development is all about in 2014. It's not just a matter for politicians. It's companies and universities, not government, that are creating solutions for today's problems and for the future. Of course, government remains a key enabler. We need to work together.
We need to build broad-based coalitions between government, businesses and consumers. Only then can we solve the major problems of the 21st century, like hunger, poverty and climate change.

2015 is an important year for the global development agenda. We'll be reviewing the Millennium Development Goals and raising the bar once again. In July the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals laid a solid foundation for the future that reflects the Netherlands' priorities. We share the hope for a better future and the ambition to make it happen. At tomorrow's climate summit, government, businesses and civil society will once again join forces to create an ambitious climate agreement. In the Netherlands we're working to do the same on a smaller scale. We're pooling knowledge, expertise and resources to reach major goals that no single party could achieve alone. We're joining hands with municipalities, companies, environmental organisations and other parties to create sustainable energy supplies. But you don't always need the government. Look at the research being done in Wageningen. Or at the Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition, set up in 2012 by eight leading multinationals, including, Heineken, KLM, Shell and my former employer Unilever. Together they're developing and sharing sustainable business models. It won't surprise you that Paul Polman, an esteemed member of the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, is one of the coalition's leaders.

It shows the broad support that sustainability now enjoys among the business community. More and more companies are opting for sustainability and corporate social responsibility, in many cases a step ahead of the government.

Business is leading the way, and not only from noble motives. To quote our host Paul Polman in his speech to the UN: 'it is not just about philanthropy or altruism. It makes business sense.' Sustainability is becoming mainstream.
Consumers demand it. They want products made in a responsible way. And they stand up to companies who don't meet high standards. Sustainable innovations create income and jobs. So there's a future to be won and money to be made.
In short, the Sustainable Development Goals can't be achieved without the private sector. Without the University of Wageningen's smart solutions. Without Unilever's Sustainable Living Plan. And without other companies and knowledge centres stepping in. But government plays a role too, bringing companies and research institutions together and promoting sustainable innovation.

It's all in the theme of this dinner: we're working on a 'transformative change for a brighter future.'
Thank you.