Three ways for businesses to support the Sustainable Development Goals

There’s a lot of talk about why businesses need to get behind the Sustainable Development Goals, but working out how to do this is not as easy. Colin Curtis from TBL Services shares three tips to help you get started.

There’s a lot of talk about why businesses need to get behind the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I’ve read countless articles on the economic opportunity associated with the goals, or the importance of industry support.

The business case for supporting the SDGs is incredibly compelling. Improved brand, better customer relationships, new revenue opportunities, increased employee engagement, reduced costs - the list goes on. It’s very positive that, according to PwC, 92% of businesses are aware of the SDGs and 71% are already planning to take action.

Try and find details on how businesses can support the SDGs, however, and things get a little vague. This is a concern because if we’re going to make any real progress, businesses need to understand not only why, but also how.

The SDGs are deceptively simple, and knowing where to start with them can seem daunting. With this in mind, below are three simple tips that any business can use to get started with the SDGs.

Choose your goals

All of the SDGs are important, however not every business can support every goal. Taking time to understand which goals you are best able to support will help you to focus. For the greatest impact, choose goals that relate to your business - for example, Goal 12 on responsible consumption and production is likely to be highly relevant for manufacturing companies.

There are many ways to determine which SDGs are the most important to you. Assessing both the impact and the opportunity of each goal is an effective approach, as is surveying stakeholders to determine the importance to them vs the importance to your business.

Although adopting a formal process to choose your goals has many benefits, you shouldn’t feel that it’s wrong to use a slightly more informal method. It may well be obvious which goals are most relevant to you.

Once you’ve chosen your priority goals, you should consider setting targets against these. You also want to look at which other goals you should support. For example, every business should be planning for Climate Action (goal 13), and Gender Equality (goal 5).

Share your support

If we’re to have a chance of achieving the goals, we need strong and loud voices to get behind them. Once you’ve decided to support the goals, one of the best things you can do is to tell the world.

Sharing your support for the SDGs is not only a good way to raise awareness of them, but also a great way for your company to raise its profile. Why not produce a short report that declares your support for the goals, highlights the activities you’re already doing, and talks about your plans?

Chances are that you’re already doing some great activities that support the SDGs. Spend some time looking at these, they make a great starting point to build on and to share with others.

If you’re not doing much yet, don’t let that hold you back from going public about your aims - people will respect your ambition.

Better together

Goal 17 - Partnership for the Goals - is debatably the most important of all the SDGs. If we’re to have any chance of making a better world by 2030, we really do have to take collective action.

The UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) was set up for exactly this reason. It provides a collective voice for those who wish to see a sustainable UK. Every voice we add to the network helps us shout louder, and provides us with greater influence, greater knowledge, and greater inspiration.

If we’re to create a world without extreme poverty, inequality, and climate change by 2030, then governments, businesses and individuals need to work together.

Getting behind the SDGs doesn’t have to be complicated. By taking these simple steps, businesses help to create a better world and unlock the potential for improved business performance.

This blog was written for UKSSD by Colin Curtis of TBL Services