Health and Healthcare Systems

Everything you need to know about the Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2020

sustainable development summit

COVID has made achieving the global goals even harder Image: lovely shots/Unsplash

Terri Toyota
Head of Sustainable Markets Group; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum Geneva
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This article is part of: Sustainable Development Impact Summit

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  • Fourth Sustainable Development Impact Summit happens 21-24 September.
  • With 2,100 leaders from government, business and civil society.
  • Key themes include Shared Prosperity; Harnessing Technology; and Liveable Planet, against the backdrop of global disruption.

“We need to turn the recovery into a real opportunity to do things right for the future.” The words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres. But this year, doing things right also got harder.

COVID-19 has disrupted progress towards many goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement. The need for new game-changers and moving forward collectively despite the uncertainties has rarely been more urgent.

Have you read?

At the World Economic Forum’s fourth Sustainable Development Impact (SDI) Summit, leaders and experts from across the globe will convene to create this momentum – initiating entrepreneurial solutions to the foremost economic, social and environmental challenges of our time.

Under the banner “Realizing a Great Reset for Sustainable Development”, this year’s summit will be fully virtual. And this presents an opportunity. By embracing the possibilities of digital, we want to create a truly ambitious programme – despite uncertainty – and one that showcases new voices and perspectives at the leading edge of sustainable development.

This year’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit will showcase fresh perspectives on topics from social justice to the environment.
Discussions and goals. Image: WEF

What is SDIS?

For three years now, the Forum has convened a summit that showcases leading examples of public-private cooperation and Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies. Importantly, it shows how they are 'force multipliers' to achieve the sustainable development agenda.

While this year’s summit – running between 21 and 24 September – will have the same central objective: to help 3,200 leaders from government, business and civil society to foster collective action and participate in sessions where they take the best examples from start-up to scale-up.

In the past, themes including climate and sustainable investment have come to the fore. This year’s summit is perhaps the broadest yet and has an emphasis on social justice and equality. COVID-19 has exposed the fragilities in our global systems. At this summit, we will address those challenges.

The co-chairs of the 2020 Sustainable Development Impact Summit.
The co-chairs of the 2020 Sustainable Development Impact Summit. Image: World Economic Forum

The co-chairs shape the agenda of the summit. Reflecting the multifaceted, global nature of the challenges we face, this year we have brought together leaders from a diverse range of voices and backgrounds, who can speak with fresh perspectives on topics from politics and indigenous rights to retail and agriculture. The 2020 co-chairs are:

  • Alain Bejjani, Chief Executive Officer at Majid Al Futtaim, a leading retail and leisure provider for the Middle East and North Africa
  • Iván Duque, President of Colombia
  • Grace Forrest, Founding Director of anti-slavery organization Walk Free
  • Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, President, Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad
  • Peter Laugharn, Chief Executive Officer, Conrad Hilton Foundation
  • Rebecca Masisak, Chief Executive Officer, TechSoup Global, a technology exchange for nonprofits
  • Anushka Ratnayake, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, myAgro, an organization working to help smallholder farmers
  • Tiffany Yu, Chief Executive Officer of disability social enterprise Diversability
COVID-19 has made hitting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals more challenging.
COVID-19 has made hitting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals more challenging. Image: UN

“New voices will bring new perspectives on the important issues of our time: social justice; biodiversity loss; economic recovery; transparent ESG reporting; and the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine,” says Dominic Waughray, Managing Director at the World Economic Forum.

In this spirit, the summit’s five themes are: Shared Prosperity; Catalyzing Cooperation; Better Business; Harnessing Technology; and Liveable Planet. Key sessions within these themes will include:

And why does it matter? Put simply, because of the scale of the challenge – “the most severe crisis the world has experienced since World War Two,” in the words of World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman, Professor Klaus Schwab.

But such a large problem tells us something else – business as usual is not an option. It’s time to talk about different solutions.


How can I follow it?

In more ways than ever before. In fact, with this virtual event we hope to reach the widest audience yet.

Many of the sessions will be streamed live and will be available via the Sustainable Development Impact Summit homepage.

Journalists who wish to view sessions live and access issue briefings can sign up here. More details on the resources available to the media can be found here.

We will also keep you up to date with the highlights of the summit on social media, whether on our Facebook pages or via the Forum on Twitter. Then there’s LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok. You can find more details on all of our outlets here.


The summit homepage will be the place to preview one of the event’s most exciting innovations – a virtual 3D experience.

We do hope you can join us, and join the conversation.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Health and Healthcare SystemsSustainable DevelopmentStakeholder CapitalismForum Institutional
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