Sustainability is becoming increasingly relevant in different fields, from policymaking to education, health, and business. As more people actively participate in reversing environmental damage, the private sector is faced with the need to align its business strategies with social and environmental responsibility.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a key tool to help companies become socially responsible and identify growth opportunities. In this article, we will tell you what SDGs for business is, why they are important and how to achieve them.
What is sustainable development?
In 1950, the world became aware of the environmental damage caused by World War II. In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development presented the report Our Common Future, which includes the best-known definition of sustainable development:
Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Since then, sustainable development has become a “social compass.” It guides citizens, civil organizations, companies, and governments to promote actions aimed at a common goal: sustainability.
The sustainable development approach is much broader than the environment. It is also about ensuring a strong, healthy, and fair society. This means meeting the needs of all people belonging to different groups, promoting personal well-being, social cohesion, and inclusion, and creating equal opportunities.
What is SDGs for business?
The SDGs are 17 goals that must be achieved during the next 10 years to comply with the 2030 Agenda. The 2030 Agenda was developed following ESG criteria; therefore, each SDG aims to solve an environmental, social, or corporate governance problem.
To meet the SDGs, the United Nations Global Compact asks companies to do business responsibly while creating new opportunities to solve societal challenges through innovation and collaboration.
The 2030 agenda and its SDG framework
As we’ve mentioned, the 2030 Agenda is an action plan for social change signed by 193 United Nations member states in 2015. From the eradication of poverty to the promotion of peace and justice, each SDG addresses a specific social problem. Taken together, these goals represent a global call to action, urging companies, governments and citizens to contribute to a more sustainable and equitable shared future.
The 2030 Agenda is considered a continuation of the UN Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015), which represented the first big international agreement designed to address such global problems.
What are the 2030 Agenda’s SDGs?
The 17 SDGs, which are divided into 5 broad categories – planet, people, prosperity, peace and alliances – include the following aims:
- No Poverty: Seeks to eradicate extreme poverty, ensuring that all people have access to vital resources and the opportunities for a dignified life.
- Zero Hunger: Aims to ensure the availability of and access to nutritious food, with a view to ending hunger and promoting sustainable agricultural practices.
- Health and well-being: Promotes easy access to health care, strong disease prevention, and mental health services.
- Quality education: Endeavors to promote training and lifelong learning.
- Gender equality: Pursues equal rights and opportunities between genders, eliminating discrimination and gender-based violence.
- Clean water and sanitation: Focuses on ensuring universal access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation services, promoting good hygiene and the sustainable management of water resources.
- Affordable and clean energy: Seeks to ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy, promoting energy efficiency and the use of renewable sources.
- Decent work and economic growth: Focuses on promoting decent and sustainable employment, as well as inclusive and equitable economic growth.
- Industry, innovation and infrastructure: Aims to promote sustainable infrastructure, inclusive industrialization and innovation in terms of development.
- Reducing inequalities: Seeks to reduce disparities within and between countries, promoting policies that address economic inequality.
- Sustainable cities and communities: The focus here is to build sustainable, safe, resilient and inclusive urban communities.
- Responsible production and consumption: Pursues the sustainable consumption and production of resources, promoting practices that minimize any impact on the environment.
- Climate action: Seeks to combat climate change and its impacts, driving urgent measures to mitigate its effects.
- Life below water: Focuses on the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources for development.
- Life on land: Seeks to protect, restore and promote the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, responsibly managing forests and biodiversity.
- Peace, justice and strong institutions: Seeks to promote peaceful, just and inclusive societies, strengthening institutions through sustainable development.
- Partnerships for the goals: Aims to strengthen the means of implementing these goals, and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, furthering global collaboration.
SDGs for business: What are their benefits?
A report published by the Commission on Business and Sustainable Development found that business models supported by the SDGs could create opportunities worth up to US$12 trillion in four key areas: food and agriculture, cities, energy and raw materials, and health and well-being.
The employment rates might significantly rise, creating up to 380 million jobs by 2030.
In addition, the United Nations asserts that there are five key benefits which make alignment with the SDGs essential:
- Improve operational efficiency throughout the supply chain, strengthen relationships and reduce environmental, safety, and hygiene risks.
- Increased interest from investors with ESG portfolios.
- Improved employee recruitment processes. Greater loyalty and retention.
- Respond on time to the regulatory requirements established by new laws.
Obstacles in applying the SDGs for business
What are the SDGs I should work on in my company? How can I achieve them? What is the most efficient methodology? These are just some of the most frequent questions when trying to achieve SDGs in companies.
According to the communication and public opinion consultancy Llorente & Cuenca, four major aspects make it difficult to implement sustainability strategies:
- Data collection
Knowing what needs a company has to decide which SDGs to develop and how to link them to the business strategy is key. Not all SDGs are relevant to all companies.
- Legal framework
Companies must be aware of the challenges facing the regions and countries in which they operate and align them with the SDGs.
- Effective communication
It is key to create communication channels (internal and external) involving two actors and establishing a two-way dialogue, mainly between the company and its employees. This will be key to mobilizing them to achieve the SDGs.
- Sustainability reports
Sustainability reporting goes beyond reporting results. This methodology offers sustainability performance indicators that help companies effectively self-assess themselves regardless of their business sector and size.
The importance of aligning business strategy with SDGs
Against a backdrop where taking social and environmental responsibility has become fundamentally important, aligning business strategy with the above SDGs brings multiple benefits. It not only strengthens the ethical position of companies, but also helps them to ensure their own long-term sustainability, so they can position themselves as committed leaders in a more just and equitable future.
But how to achieve that alignment? Here are some of the fundamental steps to creating synergy between the SDGs and a company’s business strategy:
- Identify relevant SDGs: Start by selecting the SDGs that most align with the company’s identity, taking into account environmental, social and corporate governance impacts.
- Define specific objectives: Establish clear, measurable and achievable goals that will contribute to fulfilling specific SDGs.
- Involve stakeholders: Integrate employees and suppliers into the process, encouraging collaboration and a shared understanding of objectives.
- Integrate SDGs into decision making: Finally, factor the chosen SDGs into key decisions, from supply chains to product development, to ensure alignment across all company processes.
How to promote sustainability in your company with isEazy ESG
A successful sustainability-focused strategy requires several key ingredients. It must integrate SDGs through awareness-raising solutions, but it should also bring measurable results, enhancing the company’s social, economic and environmental impact and value. isEazy ESG is a complete technology solution, designed to help you achieve these goals by mobilizing your entire company around its ESG training objectives.
With this intuitive platform, you can easily manage all the steps required to promote sustainability in your company – from a preliminary evaluation of your team’s SDG knowledge, right through to an impact analysis of your sustainable actions. But what does each of these steps look like in more detail?
1. Initial assessment
isEazy ESG allows you to discover how much your employees know about the SDGs that make up the 2030 Agenda. With the Assessment tool, you will be able to evaluate their level of knowledge and activism regarding sustainability, diversity of each area, position, department, and even geographical area that makes up your organization.
This initial analysis will only take a few minutes, and you can implement it very easily since each employee can perform this assessment (and access isEazy ESG when needed) from any device.
Once you know your employees’ activism level and have defined the SDGs you want to develop in your company, in the training stage, you must provide your professionals with the latest techniques of neuro learning and digital engagement.
These technologies you will only find in isEazy ESG can engage your modern learners and new employees. In this way, you can generate fundamental changes in your team, which will help you achieve your Sustainable Development Goals and keep your employees engaged in their training activities without losing motivation.
In addition, ESG offers you a catalog of more than 65 courses specially developed under the most prestigious international standards to achieve the 17 SDGs of the 2030 Agenda together or individually.
3. Awareness and communication
Just as important as training your workforce is helping them understand the importance of this training and the impact their actions will have within the company. Even more so when it comes to developing more sustainable and inclusive habits.
To do this, you must rely on a solution that allows you to engage your team to achieve tangible changes that favor the development of a more sustainable and egalitarian world.
Social and gamified dynamics, for example, will help you increase the participation of professionals in the project, follow the project’s evolution, and measure your team’s level of team commitment in real time.
4. Move from theory to action
You will need to establish real changes to incentivize real change in your team. isEazy ESG allows you to create specific challenges or missions, such as saving a certain amount of water, reducing a specific percentage of CO2 emissions, or getting a certain amount of clothes donated; it is important to set realistic goals and mobilize your professionals.
In addition, you can encourage your employees to share their results with the rest of the team, achieving viral changes.
5. Measurement and analysis
To know the real impact of your project, ESG allows you to follow its evolution in real-time and analyze the results by profile, department, or specific SDG.
This will bring you multiple benefits since you will not only be able to know which topics are difficult, how many people complete their activities, which departments are more committed, etc. The most interesting thing is that the results of your actions can be included in your sustainability report.
This will help you to position yourself as a socially responsible company, improve your non-financial reports and obtain official certifications such as B-Corp, or others.
Currently, there are many great tools available to help companies achieve their SDG goals. However, isEazy ESG is by far the most complete solution, especially designed to invigorate and mobilize your workforce around these crucial goals. Request your demo today!