How organisations can support the Sustainable Development Goals

Jan 19, 2020

Companies are not only talking about sustainability; they are also beginning to act. Elise McCarthy explains how companies can support the Sustainable Development Goals through their business activities.

Companies are beginning to recognise the role they play in creating a sustainable society and how, by doing so, they are also driving business growth and productivity. Many organisations are looking at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a guide.

Any company considering how it can support the achievement of the SDGs through their business activities should begin with these five starting points

Understand the SDGs

In 2015, the world leaders under the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals for nations and businesses alike to solve the world’s most significant challenges by 2030. Seventeen goals address the global challenges we face by moving to eradicate poverty, promote peace and equality, allow sustainable prosperity and protect the environment.

The SDGs are built on 169 targets, which are measured against 232 indicators. It’s a good idea to review the targets and indicators when considering which SDGs offer the most opportunities for your business.

Understand your business

Looking upstream along your value chain, where does your company source raw materials and staff? How much of these resources does it purchase? This type of information will indicate where your company can make a change and have an impact. By taking cues from the SDGs, your company can set down specifications for suppliers and the resources it purchases. 

Alternatively, your organisation could look downstream along the value chain. What products or services does your company make and supply? Are your distribution or logistics as clean and efficient as possible? Could you recycle goods? Would redesigning some products or services make a significant impact on the SDGs?

Look for opportunities 

There are business growth opportunities in the SDGs. For example, one report identified $12 trillion in savings and new opportunities by achieving the SDGs. The goals are not just branding for what society is already doing; they are goals that require new thinking and an appetite to see change. They are meant to challenge us to think about the world we want to live in, to play to our strengths and to use our power to make a change – even if it is under just one goal. If we all play our part, we will get there.

Engage employees

These days, most people are interested in sustainability and are trying to implement changes in their personal lives. Tap into that interest and enthusiasm among your colleagues by helping them to play their part at work. Show them that, as a leading employer, the company is also thinking about making smart changes to practices and procedures, and that it wants to involve its people in the journey. This user-friendly guide to the SDGs can help with internal communications and awareness. 

Decade of action

In September 2019, the United Nations Secretary-General called for more leadership and local action within countries and among individuals to meet these ambitious 2030 goals. Every day events – fires, storms, drought, waste mountains and growing inequality – are reinforcing the urgency of this mission. The clock is ticking but we excel when we put our minds to it.

Elise McCarthy is a Senior CSR Adviser in Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI). BITCI has published a detailed guide for business on the SDGs