Knowledge Centre

Time to Up the Game with SDG Communications

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were passed unanimously by the United Nations in September 2015 form the de-facto global development framework.  They are the backbone of the 2030 Agenda and adopted by countries, organizations and industries worldwide.

They are far reaching and encompass every country and apply to governments, businesses, development organizations, communities and people everywhere.  But, you wouldn’t know it by the communication, language and discussion around them. Too much high-level Ph.D’ease type language and framing and not enough pragmatism and relevancy to everyday mainstream business.  This language acts as a barrier, preventing many businesses from seeing the impact they are already having on the SDGs and how the SDGs can facilitate business value and impact.

For many, and especially all but the most progressive of businesses, they seem remote; more about a government/United Nations development dream than something meaningful, real and a practical framework for aligning business value, social impact and environmental stewardship.

While the SDGs were developed with active input from business leaders and industry groups, the language and framing of them has largely defaulted to language and perspectives more common to governments, development organizations and international agencies such as the U.N.

The SDGs apply to everyone, to the entire planet, and there is relevancy and value in them for all, including businesses of all sizes.  It is time to democratize the language and value propositions. Time to make it easier for businesses of all types to see the relevancy and value of the SDGs.

Most businesses, regardless of size and sector, are already impacting in key SDG areas, both through their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives and through their mainstream business operations.  It is so interesting to watch leaders and managers when I take them through a short executive workshop and they suddenly realize how much they are already engaged, and how simple it can be to take next steps and expand engagement and business value.

The SDGs are a great framework for helping business to understand and communicate impact on society.  And it is a framework that is already embraced by many of their key stakeholders.

Businesses of all types are under steadily increasing pressure to produce social value and be effective stewards of the environment at the same time as they are producing shareholder value.   Many struggle with this, and many more fail miserably at effectively communicating what they are doing.

Many businesses don’t understand that the SDGs can be a valuable tool for them.  They don’t realize the strategic role the SDG framework can play in helping them to be more effective and efficient at creating social impact and at communicating social and sustainability impacts to key stakeholders (including especially B2B clients, consumers, regulators, governments, etc.).  They don’t understand that communicating SDG impacts and engagement can be simple and pragmatic, that they can adapt communication frameworks that work for them – they don’t have to fit the complex frameworks used for national and global reporting

We need to spend time developing language and value propositions so that businesses of all types can more easily see the relevance of the SDGs to their operations and how they can be a strategic tool for driving business value.  Until we do that, too many will miss the connection and SDG progress will fail to achieve its potential.

If we want to achieve the SDGs and Agenda 2030, we need to work to create broader relevancy, engagement and buy-in.  The language surrounding them and the value-propositions inherent in them must be democratized. Until the communication channels are improved to help businesses and stakeholders better understand the SDGs, and until they can realize how the SDGs can work to improve their business, many will ignore the SDGs or simply pay lip service to them.  Democratize the language, democratize the value-propositions and enable broader self-interested engagement and support of the SDG agenda.

If your business is struggling to understand the SDGs and how using these goals as a framework can help create value for your business, I would love the opportunity to work with you. Send me an email at to get started today.

Prof. Wayne Dunn

Wayne Dunn is an award-winning global sustainability expert with extensive teaching, writing, lecturing and advisory service experience. He is supported by an extensive faculty and advisory team.