Companies Unveil New Business Initiatives in the Fight to Decrease Global Poverty; The United Nations and the UK Government challenge the private sector to help enhance economic growth

By | 6 May 2008

Answering the “Business Call to Action,” several global companies, including South Africa’s SAB Miller, will tomorrow announce a series of concrete initiatives that apply core business expertise – utilizing their technology and innovative spirit – to tackle the multiple challenges of poverty.

The announcement will be made at the Business Call to Action event in London, hosted by Kemal Derviş, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown, with the participation of more than 80 global business leaders, who aim to showcase innovative and creative initiatives to reduce poverty in the developing world.

At the UN in July 2007, Prime Minister Brown made a “Call to Action” to governments, businesses, NGOs and faith-based groups to focus resources and effort on delivering the MDGs by 2015, recognising that, without a collective drive, these goals will not be met. Some of the world’s leading companies signed up for the Call to Action, and this event is the next step in that process.

Over the next five years, new business initiatives, announced by companies such as Diageo, Vodafone, Coca Cola, Sumitomo, Microsoft, SAB Miller, Reuters, Citigroup and Cisco, are expected to improve the lives of almost half a million people, create thousands of jobs, and potentially benefit millions of poor people across Africa and Asia. They are part of a concerted push to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that will enable poor people to access speedy flows of information, money and business expertise, as well as creating new employment opportunities.

The Business Call to Action is not about philanthropy. It challenges companies to use their core business – whether manufacturing, finance or telecommunications – in a way that contributes both to sustainable development and to their own commercial success. It aims to inspire CEOs and companies to realise that reducing poverty also makes good business sense. By addressing poverty, businesses are not only building a safer and more prosperous world, but also securing future commercial success.

It’s been just over seven years since 189 world leaders endorsed the MDGs. The Goals represent a global partnership to promote poverty reduction, education, maternal health, and gender equality, and to combat child mortality, AIDS and other diseases. More than halfway to the target year, the MDG track record is mixed. Considerable progress is being made, but many countries are falling behind, with sub-Saharan Africa most at risk. The region is not on track to meet a single MDG by 2015. Plans are being put in place to monitor the commitments companies make under the Business Call to Action, and to learn lessons on what works well for both businesses and poor communities, that can be replicated globally.

The UNDP believes that the Business Call to Action is not a one-off event, but a commitment to speed up progress on the MDGs, to create a prosperous world for all. In that spirit, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, will convene, in September, a high-level meeting on the MDGs, bringing together world leaders, civil society and the private sector to help translate existing commitments into action and bolster the global partnership for development.

Notes for editors

  • The Business Call to Action event is taking place in London on 6 May, hosted by Her Majesty’s Government and UNDP. All media places for the event have now been allocated.
  • Video and audio news releases are also available on 6 May. They showcase six of the initiatives from Citi Group, Coca Cola, Diageo, Microsoft, Reuters, Sumitomo and Vodafone and include footage of their global CEOs talking about the transformational impact that the projects will have.

Media contacts:
UK Department for International Development – Sarah Saxton, 020 7023 0944 or 020 7023 0600, e-mail or visit

United Nations Development Programme – Chandrika Deshpande, 07508 031 946, e-mail

DFID News is available at

UNDP News is available at

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