UN Global Compact announces its 2021 SDG Pioneers

Thursday, 8 July 2021 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Hayleys Fabric Manager – Sustainability and Innovation Leonie Vaas becomes first Sri Lankan to win Global round of SDG Pioneers for 2021 at UN Global Compact’s Leaders Summit

United Nations, New York: The United Nations Global Compact announced 10 new SDG Pioneers – business leaders who are doing an exceptional job to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through the implementation of the UN Global Compact Ten Principles on human rights, environment, labour and anti-corruption. The search focused on professionals working at any level in a company participating in the UN Global Compact and the winners selected come from every continent.

“Business has a critical role to play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals at a time when progress has been set back by the COVID-19 pandemic. These exceptional professionals show exactly what can be done by business to make a difference that not only serves shareholders but also society at large. I hope they will also inspire others to join them in uniting in the business of a better world,” said UN Global Compact CEO and Executive Director Sanda Ojiambo.

Alongside the other leaders in sustainability, Leonie Vaas was awarded the SDG Pioneer for Responsible Production by harnessing Sri Lanka’s love for tea into a textile dying process by utilising tea waste, assisting in reducing the severe pollution caused by textile dyes and chemicals and reduces water and energy consumption.

Vaas said: “One of the main challenges … is to find natural alternatives to replace synthetic substances and maintain the same output and efficiencies while ensuring profitability from the business aspect. So when I was given the opportunity at Hayleys, I went ahead with my ideas to find innovation and sustainable solutions.”

Hayleys Fabric PLC is the largest fabric manufacturer in Sri Lanka, has invested in solar energy panels for all of its factory rooftops, and Vaas initiated the company’s set of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle collections points so the containers can be recycled to produce polyester yarns.

According to Vaas, the company focuses on SDG 9, industry, innovation and infrastructure; SDG 13, climate action; SDG 14, life below water; and SDG 15, life on land. 

The SDG Pioneer entries were judged by an expert panel of representatives of the UN Global Compact Expert Network, alongside previous SDG Pioneers and representatives from academia and UN agencies. The selection criteria included the individuals' commitment to embedding the 10 Principles of the UN Global Compact into their companies' core strategies and their efforts to advance the SDGs as well as their engagement with the UN Global Compact and its Local Networks. The 2021 SDG Pioneers were announced during the UN Global Leaders Summit 2021.