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Whatever one's political views, uncertainty and the return to a much more nationalist politics in many countries have displaced the assumption of steady global integration. Many commentators have declared that globalisation has already peaked, despite its role in the past year run of unprecedented successes worldwide in health, wealth, education and life expectancy.
Certainly the contradictions of that success caught up with us in In the West, stagnant incomes among broad groups made them angry at elites who were bailed out after the global financial crisis. Frustrated voters have rejected more international integration.
Elsewhere, too, those losing out either economically or environmentally, such as the citizens of smog-choked Asian cities, or socially, through the breakdown of traditional rural communities, are asking whether the costs of our global economy are greater than its benefits.
These hard questions matter to business leaders everywhere. As members of the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, we argue that it is incumbent on all of us to make the case for business to be at the heart of an open global economic system.
But we cannot defend a lazy return to the old model that has been so widely rejected over the past year. These complex challenges need the full and combined attention of government, civil society and business.
Otherwise, there is no chance of solving them. Solutions are urgently needed. We see the next 15 years as critical, with change starting now and accelerating over the period.
Business as usual is not an option: But if enough leaders act now and collectively, we can forge a different path, one that eases the burden on finite resources and includes those currently left behind or excluded from the market, helping to address today's political grievances.
In the pages of this report, some 35 business leaders and civil society representatives offer our prescription for a new, socially focused business model that reaches parts of the global economy previously left largely to public aid. It considers adopting the same approaches in developed markets to address similar pockets of need.
Taking the UN's new Global Goals for Sustainable Development as the basis for our action plan, we lay out how pursuing these goals in partnership with government and civil society will lead to greater, more widely shared prosperity for all by One casualty of the general meltdown in support for elites is trust in business.
Big business and major financial institutions are increasingly perceived as detached and rootless, more willing to justify themselves to each other at meetings like the World Economic Forum than to national legislatures, let alone at town halls in the communities where they operate.
So at the core of our argument is also the need for business to regain the licence to operate. We anticipate much greater pressure on business to prove itself a responsible social actor, creating good, properly paid jobs in its supply chains as well as in its factories and offices.
Business will need to demonstrate that it pays taxes where revenue is earned; abides by environmental and labour standards; respects the national politics and customs where it operates; integrates social and environmental factors in its investment decisions; and, above all, engages as a partner with others to build an economy that is more just.
Building those partnerships is not simply a response to the political tides flowing so strongly against what is seen as unaccountable globalisation today.
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The "Better Business, Better World" report shows how pursuing the Global Goals could raise trillions in new market opportunities in ways that extend prosperity to all.