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Cannes Lions: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon seeks agency support for sustainable development

By Dan Hodges

CANNES, France – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived at Cannes Lions having completed a nine-year-plus effort to end the violence with insurgent group FARC and the Columbian government.

The secretary-general said that ending the last 52 years of violence that had claimed hundreds and thousands lives is one of his proudest achievements.

After this big success, Mr. Ban Ki-moon addressed the top advertising agencies, asking them to put aside competitive differences at last week’s Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity to launch a major new initiative – “Common Ground” – in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted last year at the United Nations.

In the can
Mr. Ban Ki-moon said “that was another reminder that despite the turmoil in today’s world, we can find common ground. That’s the key to a better world – and it’s in our hands. I am here today to talk about just that – building a better, more sustainable world together. And I am here to ask for your help.

“This is Cannes – so I have come with a pitch,” he said. “I know all of you have tremendous power to shape opinions. You are master storytellers. And I want you to help us create the biggest campaign ever for humanity. What do I mean?

“Last September, all 193-world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with 17 sustainable development goals, or SDGs. It is quite simply the biggest anti-poverty, pro-planet action plan ever adopted by the United Nations. And it is an agenda for everyone, everywhere.

“If I had to give it a tag line, it’s this: We are the first generation that can end global poverty. We are the last generation that can address climate change before it is too late. I know all of you can help the world make these ambitious goals a reality. Here are three reasons why.

“First, none of the SDGs can be achieved by anyone alone. We need civil society. We need academia. We need the private sector. We need everyone – and everyone has a stake in its success.

“Corporate social responsibility is important, but we need to go further. Sometimes CSR is seen as a feel-good, optional approach. The SDGs touch every aspect of your business and of your client’s reality.  They echo what consumers demand.  They reflect what shareholders want. And they will instill pride in your employees.

“We need your help to make sure the SDGs are the business of all business – and the business of all people.”

IN A JOINT the agency groups said, “The Common Ground initiative recognizes that the global issues the UN has identified transcend commercial rivalry.

“By working in partnership to support the Sustainable Development Goals, we want to demonstrate that even fierce competitors can set aside their differences in order to serve a wider common interest. We hope others in and beyond our own business decide to do the same.”

Dan Hodges is managing director of Consumers in Motion Group, a New York-based strategic consultancy offering business, marketing, and technology services. He is also head of the New York chapter of the Location Based Marketing Association. Reach him at