The day after I was born, my grandfather wrote me a letter welcoming me as a new citizen of the world. “You will need courage and optimism,” he wrote, “to tackle the many challenges that you will face in your lifetime – courage to dream, to use your talents to explore new ways of solving challenges; and optimism that together, we will find solutions that everyone can benefit from.”
So what does it mean to be a world citizen in these times, in a world that is in a state of fragility, with climate change, trade tensions, geo-political unrest, uncertain prospects for the global economy, and the list goes on? For me, it means looking through a long-term lens and taking responsibility, both individually and collectively, to make a positive impact on the health of the planet and of its inhabitants.
For a start, I strongly believe that the solution to the vast majority of the world’s challenges resides in people, or human capital. With the right, sustained investments in education, training and health, it should be possible to realize the full potential of a productive, more inclusive and healthier society.
In my home country of the Netherlands, I’m applying these insights through NL2025 – a collaboration platform set up by leaders from the business, cultural and sports worlds, to work together with the aim of shaping a better future.
We share our knowledge, expertise and network to support and scale-up a broad range of initiatives that help connect people and ideas, based on the “pay-it-forward” principle – repaying a good deed to others instead of to the original benefactor.
I am also convinced that businesses have an important role to play in addressing global challenges. Since its foundation in 1891, Philips has committed itself to doing sustainable business. We have a clear “North Star” approach – our fixed and guiding vision of making the world healthier and more sustainable through innovation, with a goal of improving the lives of 3 billion people a year by 2025. We fully embrace sustainability principles not only because of the benefits for society, but also because we believe that it is a driver for innovation and value.
Our “Healthy people, sustainable planet” programme enables us to deliver on that commitment by creating value for our customers through sustainable products and services, leading by example in our sustainable operations, and driving sustainability through our supply chain.
Our work is aligned with three of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – Health and well-being for all (SDG 3), Sustainable consumption and production (SDG 12), and Climate action (SDG 13) – they provide a fantastic lens through which to unite stakeholders and shareholders in a long-term approach.