The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been big news in the sustainability community since their launch in September. This session at SB’15 London, opened by Michael Spanos of Global Sustain, brought together the UN thinking on the role of business in implementing the SDGs and information on the European Commission’s financial support, along with some advisory words and the academic approach to the change that’s needed.
Spanos’ first question addressed awareness – and of course there was a big show of hands - but how many businesses have already incorporated the SDGs into their business strategy? At this point, many companies are probably at the start of this journey.
When it comes to making these goals happen, businesses and brands have a crucial role. No matter what size or geographical footprint, businesses should all be mapping the SDGs against their value chains.
Ole Lund Hansen of the United Nations Global Compact took this discussion further, explaining how businesses were part of the development process for the SDGs so that making it realistic in a business context was interwoven from the outset. This was achieved through the Forum 3000 companies, whose input helped the UN arrive at the right balance of SDGs and ensuring that goals are aspirational in both developed and developing countries.
There will be big benefits for businesses if the SDGs are achieved:
Success will improve the enabling environment, making it easier to run successful businesses thanks to strengthened, more educated and healthier workforces
Businesses that are thinking long term will turn the challenges of the SDGs into ways to innovate and grow new markets
The SDGs enhance the business case for improved CSR and sustainability
Achieving and working to achieve these goals will lead to better micro and macro structures
Beyond this, Hansen had three pieces of advice for brands:
Act responsibly - All companies need to get on board with reducing their negative impacts
Seize opportunities – Once the foundations are in place and you have a responsible corporate culture look at how can you use that to create shared value
Specifically align business goals to global targets - The SDGs are intended to be the inspiration for this to happen across all dimensions