Or, what happens when the UN Secretary General, a CEO, and an HR professional walk into a bar….
“Welcome to the Humanity Bar. What can I get you all?” the bartender asks.
“What a great name for a bar! I’d like your prosperity and peace cocktail, with a chaser of clean water,” says (former) United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “How about you, Madame CEO. What would you like?
“I’ll have the people and profits liqueur,” says the CEO. “And, can we open the windows? It’s such a beautiful day with a gentle, fresh breeze?”
“Of course,” says the bartender. “And what can I get you?” the bartender asks the third member of this esteemed group.
"Do you have a suggestion? I'm trying to figure out how to pay for his prosperity and peace, and her people and profits, while considering my spending limits,” says the HR leader, a worthy representative of the human resources profession.
Perhaps this joke needs some polishing before I go on the road with it.
But it's an intriguing idea, isn't it? Facilitate an honest discussion amongst those tasked with bringing about peace and prosperity in the world, along with those responsible with leading profitable enterprises, plus those whose job it is to balance the needs of the workplace with the needs of employees. The topic? How to truly enable the wellbeing of employees (and their families), while sticking to budget; complying with national, state and local regulations; and fostering a positive work environment in a societal environment beset with high levels of stress.
Perhaps our HR professional should order the “What Way Forward?” ale.
In our scenario, both the CEO and her HR leader could look to the Secretary General for guidance on how to ensure both their business and their employees thrive; maybe he has a framework.
Such a framework does exist within the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While all 17 SDGs aim to support peace and prosperity (and, I would say, individual wellbeing) broadly, eight of the SDGs can be considered directly within the purview of HR:
1. No Poverty
2. Zero Hunger
3. Good Health and Well-being
4. Quality Education
5. Gender Equality
8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
10. Reduced Inequalities
17. Partnership for the Goals
This isn’t to say that business in general and HR specifically can’t make a positive contribution to the achievement of the other SDGs; they can. However, the other SDGs aren’t as directly linked to such HR programs and policies as compensation and benefits programs. You can review all of the SDGs and the role HR does play (and can further support) in helping to make them a reality by clicking here.
Using the SDGs as a framework for assessing and (re)designing your programs isn't about "doing good" (merely) for the sake of doing good. It's about nurturing and supporting employees (and by extension, their families) so they can perform at their best — and ensuring your organization’s suppliers are doing the same. It's about having what you need to attract the talent you need to enable a high-performing workforce. It's about remaining competitive in a changing world. It’s about experiencing the satisfaction of a good “Way Forward.”
With that, I invite business leaders and HR professionals to join me in saying, Cheers to peace, prosperity, and people!
 This is a paraphrase of the following statement the Secretary General made in the wake of the adoption by the 193 Member States of the U.N. at the start of its 3-day Summit on Sustainable Development (September 25, 2015): “It is an agenda for people, to end poverty in all forms. It is an agenda for shared prosperity, peace and partnership (that) conveys the urgency of climate action (and) is rooted in gender equality and respect for the rights of all. Above all, it pledges to leave no one behind.”
 Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Chairman of Business Roundtable made the following statement following the signing of (at that time) 181 CEOs to a new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation (August 19, 2019): “The American dream is alive, but fraying. Major employers are investing in their workers and communities because they know it is the only way to be successful over the long term. These modernized principles reflect the business community’s unwavering commitment to continue to push for an economy that serves all Americans.”