Multilateralism must not be just an ambition - It is our only option

By Jean-Paul Agon

This year, the deadly pandemic has touched all our lives. As the world attempts to contain the disease, the crisis has reinforced the need for collective action and international collaboration on health, economic and social issues. It has been a wake-up call to our precarious future if we do not unify to solve together our shared challenges of the 21st century: reversing climate change, fighting inequality, promoting inclusive growth, among many others.

Multilateralism must not be just an ambition. It is our only option.

For many decades, it has been a pillar of peace and prosperity. Human rights have spread, international trade increased, and poverty decreased. As the world becomes more interconnected, the necessity for multilateralism is peaking.

However, it has fallen out of fashion when we need it most. The tide of unilateralism, isolationism and protectionism is on the rise. So, while our crises are global, our responses are fragmented.

There is no greater example than the terrifying advance of global warming, but the response has been disjointed and insufficient. We must rise to the challenges facing our planet. We are at a pivotal moment. We must choose what type of world we want for tomorrow, and the clock is ticking. All experts agree: Together, we have one decade to act. Ecological transition needs to move urgently beyond good intentions: the challenge now is about action and acceleration.

At L’Oréal, we committed to this path with an aggressive sustainability plan launched in 2013 that totally transformed our business model, but this head start brings only more responsibility in the next decade. Which is why we are widening the scope of our sustainability efforts with a new program L’Oréal for the Future. We are evolving our entire business to put L’Oréal in line with the only possible scenario for humanity, the Planetary Boundaries. This commitment goes beyond our own actions to engage our entire business ecosystem of suppliers, partners and consumers in the fight. Our overarching climate change objective for 2030 is to align our greenhouse gas emissions to the +1.5°C scenario of the Paris Conference. On top of ambitious targets, we have also pledged €100 million to environmental impact investing allocated to the regeneration of damaged natural ecosystems and directed to financing projects linked to the circular economy. In my view, there is no alternative for us or any other company, because we must respect the limits of the planet. It is a matter of survival.

It is not only the cooperation of states that is needed, but companies, cities, non-governmental organizations and academies. Following the lead of former WTO Director and current Chair of the Paris Peace Forum Executive Council Pascal Lamy, “polylateralism” can include a wide variety of stakeholders from the public and private sectors in pursuit of solving the world’s problems. Accountability must be shared, and responsibility felt by every country and organization. This inclusive global governance leverages the expertise and capabilities of a broad pool of institutions to create the most effective and far-reaching solutions, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

None can fight alone against climate change or social injustice. Nor should they. Our shared future is everybody’s business. In the 21st century, our problems are global. Our solutions must be, as well. In this context, multilateralism is our crucial asset. It is our only hope, but with it, we are limitless in our capacity to transform, evolve, and build a safer, greener, more equitable world.

Views expressed in this publication are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.

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