Since the first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 – known as the Earth Summit, it was recognised that achieving sustainable development would require the active participation of all sectors of society and all types of people. Agenda 21, adopted at the Earth Summit, drew upon this sentiment and formalised nine sectors of society as the main channels through which broad participation would be facilitated in UN activities related to sustainable development.

These are officially called “Major Groups” (MGoS) and include the following sectors:

  • Women
  • Children and Youth
  • Indigenous Peoples
  • Non-Governmental Organizations
  • Local Authorities
  • Workers and Trade Unions
  • Business and Industry
  • Scientific and Technological Community
  • Farmers

Two decades after the Earth Summit, the importance of effectively engaging these nine sectors of society was reaffirmed by the Rio+20 Conference. Its outcome document “The Future We Want” highlights the role that Major Groups can play in pursuing sustainable societies for future generations. In addition, governments invited other stakeholders, including local communities, volunteer groups and foundations, migrants and families, as well as older persons and persons with disabilities, to participate in UN processes related to sustainable development, which can be done through close collaboration with the Major Groups.

Major Groups and other stakeholders (MGoS) continue to demonstrate a high level of engagement with intergovernmental processes at the UN. The coordination of their input to intergovernmental processes on sustainable development has been led by UNDESA/Division for Sustainable Development (DSD).

Member States ultimately decide upon the modalities of participation of MGoS. Thus, the engagement and participation of MGoS in intergovernmental processes related to sustainable development varies depending on the particular sustainable development topic under discussion,

Business and Industry

Major Group Introduction

 The B&I Major Group acknowledges that the implementation of sustainable development will depend on the active engagement of both the public and the private sectors. It also recognises that the active participation of the private sector can contribute to the achievement of sustainable development, including through the important tool of public-private partnerships. It supports national regulatory and policy frameworks that enable business and industry to advance sustainable development initiatives, taking into account the importance of corporate social responsibility. It calls on the private sector to engage in responsible business practices, such as those promoted by the United Nations Global Compact.

The B&I MG acknowledges the importance of corporate sustainability reporting and encourage companies, where appropriate, especially publicly listed and large companies, to consider integrating sustainability information into their reporting cycle. It encourages industry, interested governments and relevant stakeholders with the support of the United Nations system, as appropriate, to develop models for best practice and facilitate action for the integration of sustainability reporting, taking into account experiences from already existing frameworks and paying particular attention to the needs of developing countries, including for capacity building.

National Capacity Building

Major groups and other stakeholders have played a significant role in the process to formulate the universal and transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 SDGs that are at its core. Achieving the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs in each country will depend on collaborative partnerships between governments and non-State actors at all levels, and at all stages of the programmatic cycle-planning, consultations, implementation, monitoring and reviews.

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