As Seen on The Guardian: UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Help Businesses Make an Impact

The SDGs, aimed at bettering the world, present business opportunities through development. Corporations can focus on goals that relate to their strengths, like those involving healthcare or education
Mar 1, 2017 11:35 AM ET

The United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) need governments, businesses and civil society to work in tandem to battle poverty, hunger, poor health and education, climate change, inequality, and sustainability. Businesses especially have provided much-needed resources to move the needle since the goals were ratified in early 2015.

Dr Bob Eccles, chairman of Arabesque Partners, says companies find value in doing so. The SDGs are “good news” for corporations because they present business opportunities through development, he says. Eccles suggests focusing on particular goals that relate to an organization’s strengths, be it healthcare, education or community development. 

Companies worldwide are making practical changes to their business plans to increase the impact of the goals. In November, General Motors announced how its efforts in developing wildlife habitats at 63 facilities connected to the 15th SDG to halt biodiversity loss. The carmaker also has 12 employee resource groups to help people share concerns and foster professional development – supporting the 10th SDG of reducing inequality within and among countries through equal opportunity policies. 

Meanwhile, Heineken has been using SDG goals in its Brewing a Better World initiative. Last spring the beermaker said it had decreased carbon emissions by 36% and water consumption in its breweries by 26% since 2008. These achievements support UN goals to take action on climate change and ensure sustainable water management.

Novozymes, a biotechnology company headquartered in Denmark, researches and develops industrial enzymes, microorganisms and biopharmaceutical ingredients to improve manufacturing and production efficiency while saving energy and raw materials. Company leaders say the SDGs will help organizations identify and solve the world’s biggest challenges. Novozyme’s technology in bioenergy, detergents, food and feed helps the company support the SDGs that involve food security and sustainable consumption, agriculture and energy.

The SDGs are supported by the concept of shared value, which means companies can pursue financial success while bringing about societal benefits. This can be done through responsible sourcing and production; creating low cost products; investing in renewable energy; and improving the skills, wellbeing and productivity of employees and suppliers. Businesses that seek to align their sustainability efforts with the SDGs can use a number of resources, such as the SDG Industry MatrixUN Global Compact’s Ten PrinciplesConflict Free Sourcing Initiative and Ethical Trading Initiative.

Keith Weed, chief marketing and communications officer at Unilever, says corporate participation in the SDGs helps carry the goals further. “Using brands which are familiar to people to carry a message about something complex about the SDGs … helps people feel they can be a part of creating that change,” he writes. “By throwing their weight behind this, brands have the chance to really effect positive change and help deliver a brighter future for our planet.” 

Weed says that “the brands that have not yet caught on to this, and are not thinking about how they will embed environmental and social sustainability within their business model, will not be around in the next 50 years”. For their own survival, and in order for governments and global citizens to carry the SDGs across the finish line for a transformed world, corporations need to be team players.

Reposted from with permission.