Knowledge Centre

What are the SDGs and why are they important to your business

Business success today requires alignment of business, social and environmental interests.  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a globally accepted framework you can use to help your business create value more broadly and more efficiently.

When I talk about Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR) and its relation to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the biggest obstacle I hit is misunderstanding about how it should be approached (and an ill-informed fear that the SDGs are bureaucratic nightmare to be avoided by smart business)

When you look at the 17 SDGs as a list of things that have to be checked off in every CSR project it can seem overwhelming.  That’s because it is the wrong way to look at them.

Look at them in terms of the impact you are already having – you will be shocked to see just how many of the SDGs you are already touching on through ongoing business operations, procurement, training, CSR and other activities. (You are likely not getting anywhere near full value from them because of strategic communications gaps – Something I touched on here a while back.

To recap, here are the 17 SDGs that were passed unanimously by the United Nations and form the development framework for virtually all countries, international organizations and leading NGOs and development bodies:

  1. No poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-Being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equity
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced Inequalities
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life on Land
  16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships for Goals

CSR alone will never address them all, nor should it.  Undoubtedly your CSR activities are addressing some of these goals, and your business operations will be impacting others.

Organizations need to be strategic about where they make their investments. As I’ve said in the past, CSR is about creating value. And so it is up to you to find out which SDG to focus on based on the value it will bring to your investors as well as society and the environment.  

Where are the synergies?  Where is the alignment? Do your homework on these and achieve more impact with less effort and less resources.

To investors CSR projects cannot simply be seen as charitable efforts with no return. Investors invest to make money. And so it is vitally important that you measure and judge the value added by an SDG driven CSR project the same way you would any other corporate expenditure.

When considering a CSR program that addresses a specific SDG, always make sure it is aligned with what makes sense for your business.

As a final thought, CSR and SDGs are important. Employees want to work with forward thinking organizations and investors are ready to embrace sustainable and non-exploitative growth strategies.

If you want to discuss how you can align your CSR programs with SDGs for more value-added benefits, then please get in touch.

Our programs are designed to help organizations, in both the public and private sector, find efficiencies and drive growth based on SDGs.

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.