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RI Interview: Mark Wilson, CEO of Aviva Plc, launches the World Benchmarking Alliance for sustainability

RI Interview: Mark Wilson, CEO of Aviva Plc, launches the World Benchmarking Alliance for sustainability

Aviva chief kicks off one of the world’s biggest open-source sustainability data and ranking projects.

Mark Wilson addresses the United Nations General Assembly in 2015

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Mark Wilson, Chief Executive Officer of Aviva, the London-based global insurer, may not be the most popular man amongst un-enlightened executive peers by the end of this week, but it will be for the good of serious corporate comparison on sustainability.
Wilson is in New York during Climate Week and the General Assembly of the United Nations, which he personally addressed two years ago (a rare event for a corporate leader) at the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
He’s in town to draw global attention to one of the world’s biggest open-source sustainability data and ranking projects, which will launch on Thursday. The World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) could change the face of the way companies are compared on their responses to ESG issues measured against the increasingly important sustainability backdrop of the SDGs.
Full details will be unveiled this week, but in brief the WBA is a high-profile set of publically available league tables scoring companies against their sector peers on their responses to major sustainability issues measured against a number of internationally agreed performance indicators as well as their contribution to achieving the SDGs
The idea is that the information will be free and easily available to consumers – such as via a simple smartphone app – to see how sustainable one company is versus another. A model is the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark, a collaboration for the first public benchmark of corporate human rights performance led by investors including Aviva, Nordea and APG and civil society organisations including the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and the Institute for Human Rights and Business.
The WBA is partenered with Index Initiative a non-profit organization based in Amsterdam whose goal is to propel the use of benchmarks to

engage companies in delivering on the SDGs, based on the template of successful programmes like the Access to Medicines Index. Aptly, the launch of the Alliance, which Wilson hopes will give a big paddle-stroke to a wave of ‘enlightened self-interest’ by companies and investors on sustainability takes place at The New York Public Library on Thursday evening (September 21). As Wilson notes: “We want to make this like a public library as opposed to a paid library.”

“We need to celebrate the success of companies doing well on sustainability, and name and shame too, because frankly that is the only way you are going to get people’s attention, especially boards!”

The Alliance already includes financial backing from governments including the UK, Denmark and The Netherlands, and support from NGOs including Oxfam and WWF.
Wilson has been instrumental in pushing the WBA concept within the heavyweight Business and Sustainable Development Commission that has incubated the idea, because, he says, public ranking is the only way to really get the attention of the c–suite and fire up competitive capitalist instinct.
Talking to RI at Aviva’s headquarters in London, Wilson said: “We need to celebrate the success of companies doing well on sustainability, and name and shame too, because frankly that is the only way you are going to get people’s attention, especially boards! The World Benchmark Alliance appeals to the animal instincts of capitalism: competitive, wants to win, survival of the fittest, Darwinian at its core. What companies respect is

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