The Sustainable Development Goals – a call to action for all
The many goals and even more targets (17 goals and 169 targets, to be precise) making up the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are so wide and so far reaching, that engagement from governments alone is not enough to achieve them. Thankfully, there is a general acknowledgement “out there” that participation is also required from private businesses, local authorities and civil society to build a strong sense of ownership by all. This is our world, our home and such a good planet is hard to come by, so let’s do this!
SDGs and the private sector
Any business that is keen to survive in the longer term should pay some attention to the Sustainable Development Goals. Unless there is food, clean water, fresh air, fertile soil and other natural sources, we are out of business. It is also a fairly safe bet that your customers care about these issues.
The SDGs provide a business-friendly agenda and a long-term vision that I would find hard for any organisation to reject. The SDGs also provide opportunities, a new way of looking at what your impacts are and what contributions your business makes, or is sometimes already, making.
Many organisations that have started to consider the Sustainable Development Goals have started to show how their activities, what they do, is already aligning with the Goals. This is a very good start, it is a similar process to identifying what is important to your business using the concept of materiality. Many organisations are also picking out a few of the SDGs, the ones that perhaps make most sense and that are aligned with what the organisation does. I would again suggest that this is a good start and we all need to start somewhere. The next step, and this is where it becomes more challenging (and we all love a challenge, right?), is to take a more holistic view of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and look at the whole of the organisation’s value chain, to identify areas of real impact and opportunity for change and to move from simply aligning activities, to driving and making progress towards achieving the SDGs.
In a previous blog, I showed how even small and medium sized organisations can make sense of the SDGs and some simple suggestions on how they can start.
Whatever the size of your organisation, if you are looking to trade internationally, the beauty of the Sustainable Development Goals is that they provide, what many including I are saying, a common language which is understood all across the world. Here the visionary SDGs and accompanying targets are akin to a world standard on sustainability and can be very supportive to show that your organisation is taking the environment and social justice seriously, wherever you operate.
SDGs and charities
I would argue that not only for-profit businesses can find the SDGs helpful. If you are working in a charity or non-profit organisation, the SDGs can provide a simple and globally standardised way to relate your cause to the bigger picture. This will help your funders get a better understanding of the impact of the work you are doing and, in addition, it will be educational for funders and beneficiaries alike. The more we talk about the SDGs, the more recognition they will achieve and momentum, commitment and actions will increase.
Mapping the SDGs in relation to your charitable cause can bring to life links and interactions which you might not have thought of before and therefore the SDGs can provide inspiration for innovative, new campaigns which will help the charitable cause even more.
A related recent development in this sector is the recognition by WWF, Fairtrade and several other international NGOs, who have introduced the Gold Standard for the Global Goals (GS4GG). This will provide quantified and certified impacts. There is evidence that big, international funders are starting to inquire about it.
SDGs and local authorities
Many of the SDGs are as meaningful to local authorities as they are to private organisations. Specifically, SDG 11 "making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable", stands out as very important for our local authorities. This became very apparent to me at the most recent Sustainable Development Goals Network MeetUp, which I hosted at the beginning of this month in London. This highly interesting event, with the theme “Sustainable Spaces”, included an energetic duo representing The Edible Bus Stop, a London based award winning Landscape Architecture and Design Consultancy which works to transform the environment and greening the grey of our urban landscapes with creative design and community engagement, pointed to the benefits of greenery in our cities and communities and the huge positive impact it has on people’s health and wellbeing. It is a no brainer really: greener places do offer social, economic and environmental benefits. In bringing our communities together, local authorities have a wonderful opportunity to engage with the Sustainable Development Goals.
SDGs and you
It is almost impossible to do anything these days without having an app on your mobile phone to help you along, and why shouldn’t the SDGs use gaming to educate people? There are some exciting projects going on at the moment which are looking to use gaming, apps and similar to make people of all ages aware of what it is to be more sustainable and act accordingly. We will be discussing this at the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals Network in London in December (if you would like to join us, please book here).
To inspire broader action across your workforce or just because you want to get inspired and do something yourself, as we know change starts with you, check out the upcoming Ecoed app, which seeks to make the macro challenge of sustainability accessible and grounded enough for each one of us to realise how much we can contribute by taking action on that which is within our arms' reach - i.e. our day to day habits and decisions around consumption, waste, energy, food choices, etc. The app is due to be released in February 2018 and is at the moment searching for supporters and advocates to help it reach as many people as possible.
Furthermore, as leaders of your businesses, if you are motivated by the SDGs and what they can bring to your organisation, imagine what your staff can do. By communicating to your staff about the Sustainable Development Goals, you will achieve four things;
First, you give them motivation to work towards a global movement – give them a sense of wider purpose in their jobs.
Secondly, you increase education around the goals and the understanding of what they are.
Thirdly, you are more likely to get exciting new ideas on targets and actions related to your business, from your staff, than what you can ever think of if working alone. As I always say, collaboration is key.
Fourth – you will get customer recognition of a being/ becoming a responsible business
SDGs to engage
As you can see, whether your organisation is an SME, a big corporate, a charity, a local authority or it is your personal change and commitment which is at the forefront of your mind, the SDGs provide a call to action for all. And, as I always say, collaboration is key. For the SDGs, we want to make 1 + 1 = 17.