Sustainable Development Goals - why should businesses care?

Posted in: Green culture

Posted on: 18.04.2017

Anyone with an ear to the ground in sustainable business circles over the past year will probably have detected murmurings about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Global Goals.

 

What are the Sustainable Development Goals?

These Sustainable Development Goals offered the potential for a comprehensive, unifying framework for promoting and measuring progress towards all aspects of sustainability in a way that speaks not just to companies, but also to their stakeholders, including governments, NGOs, communities and customers.

Not surprisingly, a stream of conference sessions and briefings on the corporate social responsibility circuit quickly followed the launch of the SDGs. We were soon hearing from the likes of PwC that the global goals were 'business critical' and that the overwhelming majority of companies intended to 'embed' them within five years. Global brands such as Unilever were declaring the SDGs 'the biggest growth opportunity in a generation'.

Action speaks louder than words - and despite some evidence a year after their launch that business was being slow on the take-up of SDGs - examples began to emerge of 'extraordinary action' by a number of leading companies (including Unilever, Siemens, Marks & Spencer and Danone) working to help achieve the goals.
Meanwhile, it seemed many governments, particularly those in more developed economies, were lagging behind and there was a growing feeling in UK public policy terms that the SDGs risked being left to languish in the 'ghetto' of international development where they began.
 

What is the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development or UKSSD?

The UKSSD was designed as 'an open platform to support public, private and voluntary organisations working towards sustainable development in the UK'. The UKSSD quickly saw the need to apply some gentle pressure on the Westminster government to wake up to the opportunity afforded by the SDGs.

As a member of the UKSSD Steering Group, Good Energy was pleased to put its name to an open letter to the Prime Minister, published in The Times in January, with the support of more than 80 other leading UK companies, encouraging the government to demonstrate its commitment to the SDGs and to work with business and other stakeholders towards a clear delivery plan.

The government's only response to the open letter to date has been through a comment provided to The Independent - from the Department for International Development. This suggests the SDGs are 'embedded' in the plans of all government departments and that a report is in the pipeline 'outlining the UK's contribution to implementing the goals domestically and internationally'. For its part, the UKSSD has promised to continue to press the government to take action on the SDGs in the UK.

At Good Energy, we've undertaken some early steps to identify which of the SDGs we can help deliver most.

Not surprisingly, as a renewable energy company, our most direct contribution will be to Goal 7 on 'Clean and Affordable Energy' and Goal 13 on 'Climate Action'. But to maximise our positive impact, we need to look wider and deeper than our core business activities. As such, we're in the process of assessing how we can deliver more on a wider set of Global Goals including those on Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Sustainable Cities and Communities, and Good Health and Wellbeing.

To really make a difference, this has to be much more than a tick box exercise. That's why we're starting to use the Goals as a framework for the evolution of the Good Energy brand and to guide formal decision-making in the business. If we're considering doing something new or different, the Goals can be a helpful reference point. And we're already testing the Goals as a framework for external reporting, for example as part of our most recent annual report to the Social Stock Exchange.

These may be small beginnings, but with responsible business leading the way, we think the Global Goals could help reverse some of the bleakest recent global trends and help deliver a cleaner, fairer and more prosperous world by 2030. We really can't afford not to make this happen, so we urge businesses of all shapes and sizes to join us.

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