Prime Minister launches strategies to promote inclusive sustainable businesses to achieve SDGs in Sri Lanka

ESCAP extends fullest support to Sri Lanka to achieve SDGs – UN Under Secretary General Armida Alisjahbana

Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena launched the new strategies to promote inclusive sustainable businesses to achieve SDGs in Sri Lanka at the Temple Trees today (January 31) in the presence of UN Under Secretary General Armida Alisjahbana, who is also the Executive Director of ESCAP.

After the launch, Prime Minister said that Sri Lanka’s vision for new Sri Lanka cannot be achieved without developing and promoting sustainable businesses. “Businesses today hold immense power not just as engines of economic growth, but also as agents of positive change,” he said.

Pointing out that the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals or the SDGs rightly recognised this need by placing businesses at the heart of the global development agenda, he said that Sri Lanka is acutely aware of this potential; hence, engaging and empowering the private sector and harmonising the private and public sector businesses is considered to be crucial in our ambitious journey towards rebuilding a stronger country.

United Nations Under Secretary General Armida Alisjahbana, thanking the Prime Minister for stressing the importance of business sector to achieve SDGs, said that the UN and ESCAP would continuously support Sri Lanka’s efforts towards SDGs.

Ministers Dr Ramesh Pathirana and Mahinda Amaraweera, diplomatic community, Secretary to the Prime Minister, Anura Dissanayake, Secretary to the Treasury, Ministry of Finance Mahinda Siriwardana and others Secretaries and senior officials were present on this occasion.

Following is the full text of the speech of the Prime Minister;
As I stand before you today, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment in Sri Lanka’s journey towards a brighter and more sustainable future.

We all know that the world is grappling with unprecedented challenges – climate change, economic turbulence, and social inequities to name a few. Yet, within these anxieties, lies an immense opportunity to not just recover, but to reimagine and rebuild a Sri Lanka that will not only be prosperous but also more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient.

We have inherited the imperative of sustainability of nature from the ancient Buddhist value system. When Arhath Mahinda, who was sent by Emperor Ashoka to introduce Buddhism to Sri Lanka, he told king Devanampiyatissa “king you are not a ruler of this land, flying birds, moving reptiles, as well as other animals and human beings under your custody, you are not a ruler but you are the guardian of the land.”

This doctrine stressed that man is part of the nature and the significant the human beings as well as the other creatures.

Based on that heritage, our vision for this new Sri Lanka cannot be achieved without developing and promoting sustainable businesses. Businesses today hold immense power not just as engines of economic growth, but also as agents of positive change.

As constantly emphasized by his Excellency the President, the role of private sector-led, competitive growth integrated within regional and global markets is deemed a crucial element of this new paradigm. This is where the Inclusive and Sustainable Business Strategy comes in.

This robust strategy, born from a collaborative, cross-sectoral effort, presents a roadmap for businesses to not only thrive financially but also contribute meaningfully to our social and environmental well-being. The core of this strategy hinges on two key pillars, namely, inclusivity and sustainability.

Inclusivity demands that nobody is left behind in our march towards progress. Every entrepreneur, every farmer, every small business owner must have the opportunity to prosper and contribute. This means dismantling barriers to entry, fostering financial inclusion, and ensuring fair and equitable access to resources.

Sustainability, on the other hand, goes beyond mere environmental protection, encompassing resource efficiency, responsible social practices, high ethical standards, and good governance. Our businesses must operate with long-term vision, minimising their environmental footprint, maximising their overall positive impact, and leaving a legacy of shared prosperity for future generations.

This doesn’t stop there. Much like enterprises and entrepreneurs, their customers as well as the community should also benefit from Inclusive and Sustainable businesses. Therefore, this strategy is not merely a document; it is a call to action, and a pledge to uphold sustainability and inclusivity as a nation. We invite all stakeholders – businesses, government agencies, civil society organisations, and academia – to embrace this shared vision and collaborate in its implementation.

I urge business leaders to seize this opportunity. Integrate sustainability and inclusivity into your core values; embrace innovative solutions and responsible practices. I am aware that many of you have already embarked on a journey towards achieving sustainability in your operations, and I urge you to double down on your efforts in this worthy cause.

To the government agencies, my message is that we need supportive policies that incentivise sustainable and inclusive business practices, eliminate bureaucratic hurdles, and foster a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. It is your responsibility to make it happen.

I request civil society organisations to continue playing a critical role in awareness creation, advocacy, and community engagement, because you must be the bridge between businesses and communities, ensuring that sustainability benefits everyone.

To academia, kind request is to share your knowledge and expertise, which are invaluable in developing practical solutions and guiding businesses on their sustainability journey. Industry-Academia collaborations will be key to fostering innovation for sustainability.

Let us join hands, leverage our strengths, and build a Sri Lanka where prosperity and sustainability walk hand-in-hand. With commitment, collaboration, and unwavering action, I firmly believe that we can transform this blueprint into a vibrant reality. The time for talk is over; the time for action is now.

Let me extend my heartfelt gratitude to all who made the Inclusive and Sustainable Business strategy a reality. From the tireless efforts of the Sustainable Development Council and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific to the invaluable insights of diverse stakeholders across multiple sectors and agencies, your collaboration and dedication have paved the way for a greener, more equitable Sri Lanka.

Let us embark on this journey together, towards a greener, fairer, and more inclusive Sri Lanka for all.

Prime Minister’s Media