4.2.1: The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

A global imperative to foster sustainable development, and re-equilibrate the abovementioned pillars or sustainability underpins the notion for the identification of 17 specific sustainable development goals to be achieved by 2030 (Agenda 2030).

These goals provide clear guidelines for businesses, as well as individuals and governments, to engage in tackling global issues, via collective partnerships. Agenda 2030 highlights the vital role the private sector plays in achieving sustainability.

Source: UNDP (2015)

Focus Box: Financing the SDGs for success.

Financing to achieve these SGDs by 2030 is expected to be in the trillions, and it cannot be supported by governments and public contributions alone. The World Bank allocates an estimated $135 billion/annum for sustainable development assistance, leaving domestic resource funding and private financing to fill financial gap. In order to achieve these ambitious SDG targets, it is therefore vital that businesses and the private sector contribute actively to addressing sustainability.

The Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SGD Fund) is an example of an international multi-donor, multi-agency, and multi-sector mechanism that seeks to encourage sustainable development and promote public-government-private partnerships. It brings together UN agencies, national governments, academia and expertise, civil society and businesses to support and sustain sustainable development activities through integrated multidimensional joint initiatives. These initiatives are facilitated via inclusive “co-design, co-finance, co-implement” schemes that encourage input, support and commitment from all involved parties.

Based on earlier Millennium Development Goals (year 2000), the SDGs have elaborated the role of the private sector, as seen in the table below.

Source: UNDP (2016) “Business Call to Action” report                                    
 *The abbreviation PPP refers to public-private partnerships.

The SDG framework assists businesses to incorporate the goals into their activities, and align, measure, and explain these actions to internal and external stakeholders. By bringing businesses into the fold, the SDGs are more easily achieved in the form of job creation and economic productivity, innovation and technological progress, shaping customers’ needs, leveraging investment opportunities through philanthropic, social, and commercial investment, accessing know-how and skills, and building alliances to promote good governance, accountability and inclusivity.

Businesses, too, benefit from engaging in the SDGs in a number of important ways:

1. Securing the long-term success of business by improving the broader enabling environment and ecosystems in which business operates.
2. Identifying and managing material risks and costs.
3. Building reputation, strategic market positioning and safeguarding a license to operate.
4. Strengthening relationships with employees, customers and other stakeholders.
5. Creating or accessing new markets. Technology, product, service and business model innovation that contributes to the SDGs also offers opportunities to reach new growth markets and strengthen competitiveness.
6. Aligning business action with the vision of the company’s leadership and expectations of its employees, customers or clients.

Source: UNDP (2016) “Business Call to Action” report

Aligning with Agenda 2030 – Businesses in action

SABMiller (Brewing Company)
SABMiller specifically developed its new sustainable development oriented corporate strategy – “Prosper” in 2014 to enable greater contribution to the SDGs. Prosper integrates sustainable developmentinto its business through five shared initiatives:
1. Accelerating growth and social development through the company’s value chains
2. Making beer the natural choice for the moderate and responsible drinker
3. securing shared water resources for the business and local communities
4. creating value through reduced waste and carbon emissions
5. supporting responsible and sustainable use of land for growing crops

Olam International (Global Agri-business Operator)
Olam International addresses the direct (growing, processing and distribution) and indirect risks (sourcing, trading) in their supply chains to further its commitment to the SDGs. By including commercial factors (ie. sound business model with strong risk management and governance), the company protects its investors, shareholders and employees – which creates a secure, resilient and sustainable business for its farmers, suppliers and customers. It therefore ensures that profitable growth is achieved in an ethical, socially responsible and environmentally sustainable manner

Grupo Nutresa (Food Processing Company)
Grupo Nutresa identified correlations between their corporate sustainability priorities and the procurement and processing operations of 23 material ingredients utilized in their products. This analysis has allowed it to identify the SDGs in which it was to strengthen its efforts. It has also encouraged the development of training and workshops for executives, employees and suppliers to educate them on new actions and initiatives towards social and environmental challenges within its own operations and throughout its value chains.

Resinplast (Plastic Packaging Company)
Resinplast identifies its main challenge as incorporating sustainability into its products. Plastic is a material that, without proper treatment and recycling, is not sustainable and harms the environment, since it takes a long time to disintegrate and generally is not recycled by the public. In this context, it has developed more efficient packaging by reusing and recycling all materials used in its value chain and has established a strict recycling policy.

Iberdrola (International utility and energy company)
Iberdrola has redesigned its corporate outlook so that the SDGs are now at the heart of the company and are penetrating all departments, including senior management. Workshops are co for managers, highlighting the SDGs and the role the private sector plays in achieving them have been organized worldwide. Every Monday the steering committee meets to present investment initiatives. Each of the presentations makes reference to the impact on the SDGs.

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