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Business leaders urge Britain to use U.N. targets in COVID-19 recovery plan: letter

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a face mask crosses a bridge in front of One Canada Square in Canary Wharf, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain, May 18, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

LONDON (Reuters) - The bosses of some of Britain’s biggest companies have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging him to embed the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in its COVID-19 recovery plan.

Britain has already said it wants to ensure its economic recovery plan is ‘green,’ mirroring similar plans in the European Union and elsewhere, but it needed to make the sustainable goals central to those plans, the letter said.

The SDGs were launched in 2015 and include a broad range of targets to hit by 2030, including ending poverty, reducing inequality and protecting the environment.

In the letter dated June 9 and seen by Reuters, leaders such as Natwest RBS.L Chief Executive Alison Rose and Schroders SDR.L Chief Executive Peter Harrison said the SDGs should be used to prioritise the most vulnerable in society.

“The SDGs provide us with a framework which can help us prioritise health and wellbeing, alongside prosperity and GDP, as a measure of the nation’s success,” they said. “We need to ensure that our recovery from the pandemic leaves no one behind and puts the health and wellbeing of current and future generations first.”

The letter said “coherent policies” based on the UN framework should help in the transition to a low-carbon economy, and underpin a focus on the risks to society posed by the loss of biodiversity and habitat.

“We recognise that the scale of recovery will pose many challenges for the Government. But the COVID-19 crisis has shown that businesses, government, and civil society can and will work together to create lasting and positive change,” the letter said.

“We believe the SDGs should be used to establish the level of ambition for the UK’s pandemic-recovery and a future that ensures all people in our country live a good life, prospering on a healthy planet.”

Reporting by Simon Jessop and Iain Withers, editing by Sinead Cruise and Bernadette Baum