1. No Poverty

How business leadership can advance Goal 1 on No Poverty

Poverty is a violation of human dignity, and an obstacle to the realization of all other rights. Despite progress in recent years, the number of people living in extreme poverty globally remains unacceptably high. 2.2 billion people live on less than $2 (purchasing power parity) a day. Half of these individuals live in least developed countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Relative poverty, which considers an individual or household’s position relative to others in the society, is also a serious problem that affects both developed and developing countries. The effects of poverty are exacerbated by other forms of discrimination, including for women and persons with disabilities. Poverty eradication is central to the Global Goals, and achievement of all Goals is closely tied to the achievement of Goal 1. Poverty impedes the full participation of people in society and the economy. A society free from poverty is more peaceful, stable, innovative, and equal.

Vitally, all business has a responsibility to prevent and address human and labour rights violations, and it should identify and avoid practices that perpetuate poverty traps. Business should respect fundamental human and labour rights; adopt responsible taxation practices; and ensure that end-to-end operations do not exacerbate poverty in any way. This includes providing decent work (work that is productive and delivers a living wage); security in the workplace; social protection for families; better prospects for personal development and social integration; freedom for people to express their concerns, organize, and participate in the decisions that affect their lives; and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men. Business should also adopt responsible taxation practices and should robustly assess whether its activities carry the risk of contributing to poverty, directly or indirectly. Useful tools for assessing such impacts include the UN Global Compact’s Poverty Footprint Tool. All companies are linked to global poverty, particularly through their supply chains, and have a responsibility to work towards eliminating negative impacts to the Goal.

Companies can engage in poverty-alleviation in many ways, providing ample opportunities for leadership. Given the all-encompassing nature of Goal 1, action on several other Goals such as gender equality (Goal 5), sanitation (Goal 6), and environmental impacts, and protection under the law (Goals 13, 14, 15, and 16) can significantly contribute to poverty alleviation. To directly engage with poverty-alleviation and leverage their position as employers and producers, leading businesses can engage in job-creation by expanding into new underserved areas and investing in growing businesses, focusing on least developed countries and vulnerable populations; implement programs to economically empower disadvantaged groups; and ensure decent working conditions for all employees across the business and supply chain, with partnerships to build suppliers’ capacity to do the same. Business can also lead by creating and marketing goods and services that specifically cater to, and aim to improve the lives of, vulnerable groups. Key to this is the role that business can play to alleviate the economic conditions leading to poverty through increasing business activity in least developed countries in ways that are aligned with the needs of local communities, in particular ensuring that economic benefits flow through to local workers and suppliers.

There is a strong business case for action on ending poverty. Greater prosperity means a healthier, wealthier, and more able population that will provide companies with the customers, suppliers, and employees that are needed for sustainable growth.

Do your actions satisfy the Leadership Qualities?

Guiding Questions to apply to the Leadership Qualities to your business






  • Is your company committed to supporting the achievement of Goal 1? Have you developed a holistic strategy that reflects this commitment, covering end-to-end operation and the wider community?
  • Are you committed to learn from your actions and do you have processes in place to improve them accordingly?
  • Is your strategy supported by the highest levels of management, including the Board of Directors?

Key Considerations

Intentionality and top-level leadership are key to achieve poverty alleviation goals. It is essential to build milestones for reviewing the effectiveness of implementation strategies targeting poverty alleviation. It similarly takes support from all levels of the company and management to expand activity in developing markets.

  • Do your actions achieve long-term outcomes that greatly exceed those resulting from current industry practice?
  • Are your actions aligned with what is needed to achieve Goal 1?

Key Considerations

Ambitious action to reduce poverty involves expanding decent work into economically disadvantaged communities, and creating opportunities for groups who have been marginalised, such as women, ethnic and racial minorities, and the disabled. It means community-wide engagement and empowerment.

  • Is support for Goal 1 embedded across all organizational functions?
  • Are staff and board incentives aligned with achieving Goal 1?

Key Considerations

Action to reduce poverty should be consistent across all organisational functions. Consistency requires that companies adopt responsible practices across all functions, including legal and responsible taxation practices. External communications on poverty alleviation must be aligned with internal efforts.

  • Do you proactively look for opportunities to partner with Governments, UN agencies, suppliers, civil society organizations, industry peers and other stakeholders to inform how to advance Goal 1?

Key Considerations

Action to alleviate poverty involves deep stakeholder engagement with Governments, NGOs, industry peers, economically disadvantaged groups and other stakeholders to understand the drivers of poverty traps and address their root causes. Collaboration is necessary for business action to be informed, targeted and effective.

  • Do you publicly express your commitment to advance Goal 1?
  • Do you identify, monitor, and report on impacts, including potentially adverse impacts?
  • Do you mitigate risks associated with your action?
  • Do you remediate negative impacts associated with this action?
  • Do you engage stakeholders in a meaningful way?

Key Considerations

Making commitments public, and progress transparent, is key to drive poverty alleviation. Risks of negative impacts on people and planet must be understood and managed. Poverty-alleviation initiatives must meaningfully engage all concerned stakeholders, especially local communities.

Business Actions


Create secure and decent jobs


Empower disadvantaged groups


Ensure decent working conditions


Create goods that improve lives

How taking action on Goal 1 is interconnected with other Goals

The Global Goals are inherently interconnected. Action taken toward one Goal can support or hinder the achievement of others. Identifying and addressing these interconnections will help business to build holistic and systemic solutions that amplify progress and minimize negative impacts. To help build a greater understanding, we have illustrated some of the ways in which the Goals connect. These are not exhaustive, and we encourage business to consider how they apply in their own operations.

Maximise likelihood of positive impact on:

Poverty is an obstacle to the realization of human dignity and development, and a barrier to many human rights. Living in poverty often means a lack of access to basic amenities such as good nutrition, sanitation, healthcare, and education. Therefore, reducing poverty can help address issues around nutrition (Goal 2), health (Goal 3), education (Goal 4), sanitation (Goal 6) and inequality (Goal 5 and 10), which collectively contribute towards building more peaceful societies (Goal 16). Lifting people out of poverty also adds positively to the labour force resulting in stronger economic growth (Goal 8) and innovation (Goal 9). It can also positively contribute to planet-related Goals (Goals 13, 14 and 15), as poverty can be a driver of activities such as poaching, and slash and burn agriculture.

Minimise risk of negative impact on:

There are some potential risks of negative impacts associated with action on poverty alleviation. If reducing poverty leads to rapidly increasing consumption of polluting goods, this may have a negative impact on climate and the environment (Goals 13, 14 and 15). Any action to reduce poverty should also not adversely impact on the rights of disadvantaged groups, especially land rights, and companies should not engage in discrimination especially in employment practices or provision of goods and services (Goal 16).

Goal 1 Targets

Targets of Goal 1

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere
  2. Reduce the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions
  3. Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all
  4. Ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services
  5. Build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposures and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters