Business as Accelerator for the Sustainable Development Goals – Towards Long-term Contributions and Measurable Results

Almost three years have passed since the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted. Statistics show that Swedish companies are in the top when it comes to referring to the Sustainable Development Goals in their sustainability reports. But how do we take the next step? How do we accelerate businesses’ contribution to the SDGs and start measuring and disclosing actual effects?

The Private Sector – one of the most important powers for reaching the SDGs

These questions above were discussed during a crowded seminar on the 5th of July, hosted by Worldfavor and Eliasson Group. The panel consisted of Jan Eliasson, former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, AnnaLena Norrman, Chief Sustainability and Quality Officer – Martin & Servera, Jonas Carlehed, Sustainability Manager – IKEA, and Albert Askeljung, Project Officer – UNDP.

The private sector is an important player in reaching the global goals. As a matter of a fact, business is seen as one of the most critical powers in order to succeed with the goals – something which the panelists unitedly agreed upon. As the discussion went further, however, it came clear that to really maximize the net positive impact of business for reaching the goals, cross-sector partnerships is a key success factor. There is only so much a company can achieve in isolation – collaboration will enable the private sector’s impact to the fullest, where one plus one becomes three. As Albert Askeljung, Project Officer at UNDP summarized it: 

”Hand in hand, that’s how we succeed!”  

In need of higher expectations, Targets and measurability

One of the most important aspects in order to track a company’s contribution towards the Sustainable Development Goals is measurability. The SDGs are a new set of targets, where a company has the opportunity to align their efforts and results, and which outlines a clear roadmap that businesses can relate its impact to. Being able to measure the effects in a better way would therefore also enable companies to set clear targets for their impact on the goals. 

“Goal-steering is the way businesses have always been run – so of course we need to set targets in this area in the same way“ – AnnaLena Norrman, Martin&Servera

THe SDGs – The World's best order

As the discussion moved on into other fundamental aspects for the private sector’s contribution to the global goals, the panel agreed on the importance of even higher expectations from stakeholders, as well as better awareness among customers and consumers. Naturally though, this goes both ways and the panel highlighted that there is a common liability, where companies need to educate their stakeholders as well as provide them with proper data to make conscious decisions. As IKEA’ Jonas Carlehed highlighted; everyone around the world must change their behavior in order to reduce the negative impacts on areas related to the SDGs. The good news? As Carlehed puts it: 

“The SDGs have come in as the world’s best order to us. A unique opportunity to create actual change.”

A once in a lifetime opportunity

The global goals are not only the world’s greatest opportunity for radical change and  momentous in social, economic and environmental issues – it is also a unique opportunity for businesses to embrace. Companies who align their strategy and communication with the SDGs can turn global challenges and threats into business opportunities, and at the same time contribute to a better world. And to quote Jan Eliasson during the panel discussion:

“Doing good can’t be an add-on anymore for any company who wants to stay in business – it needs to be part of the core of the business and ideally align with the Global Goals.”

The Road Ahead

Conclusions from the seminars tell us that, although business has come far and already taken important steps in the right direction, there is still much to be done. The 2030 Agenda outlines the roadmap and the action plan. For business to maximize their impact, cross-sector partnerships will be key, and the financial resources for transformation must be available in all parts of the world. We all need to change our behavior – both as citizens and businesses – and measurable effects and data is key to better decisions and goal steering. What is clear is that sustainability must be a core part of every business who wants to survive and succeed in the 21st century. As Jan Eliasson carefully pointed out:

“Short term sacrifices today will make us winners in the long run…”

Want to know how Worldfavor’s digital platform can help you accelerate your work with the SDGs and other established guidelines and standards? Get in touch or request a demo. 

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