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SDGs & Business: An Opportunity for Value Creation



SDGs & Business: An Opportunity for Value Creation

Few think of business value creation when they think of the SDGs. But, the reality is that if they are used strategically as a communications and impact framework, that is just what they can do.

The SDGs can create business value, social impact and mitigate environmental impact, simultaneously.

The SDGs Are Not Promoted as Valuable for Business

This may come as a surprise to many. For years the SDGs have largely been seen as a Government and United Nations project aimed at poverty, gender, education, health, climate and other public priorities.

The SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) were adopted unanimously by the United Nations and all member states in 2015 and are the de-facto development agenda for the planet.

While they have been promoted as a global development agenda, the management frameworks and metrics surrounding them have been overwhelmingly complex.   Developed by Ph.D. Economists in the bowels of the United Nations and global governments, these metrics and frameworks literally gave no consideration to effective value propositions for businesses.

SDGs:  Crazy Complex Metrics & Management Frameworks

The metrics and management framework includes 169 targets, 247 indicators (and many sub-targets and sub-indicators. I expect (but am not certain) that these work well for global and nation state level management and reporting, they do nothing to democratize the SDGs and promote broad engagement

Some Fortune 500 and other large corporations have engaged with the SDGs, but most businesses still see the SDGs as a Charity and Philanthropy agenda that they would do well to avoid. They fear it will cost them money and time and produce little or no value.

This is unfortunate. The SDGs are a meaningful framework that can produce value for businesses of all types if engaged with strategically

Business Faces Increasing Pressure to Deliver ESG & SDG Impact

The same businesses that fear the complexity of the SDGs are also under increasing pressure from stakeholders, regulators and financiers to address ESG related social and environmental risks and opportunities.

Most of these businesses are already having significant ESG and SDG impact through their ongoing business operations and community engagement processes.

Yet, most struggle to communicate the impact they are having. Many don’t even really know the impact they are having because they are too focused on what they consider to be their core business.

This is literally like leaving money on the table. They are under pressure from stakeholders to deliver ESG and SDG impact, they are in fact delivering that impact, but they are dropping the ball when it comes to communicating it, and many don’t even realize the impact they are having.

SDGs Are a Valuable Management & Communication Framework for Business

This is where the SDGs can be an invaluable resource for business management and communications. A simple SDG Impact Analysis can produce valuable management and communication information.

Simply get a list of the SDGs and go through them one by one, noting impacts you are having (and where you may be able to do more). Use metrics where they are available. Don’t just note development and environment impacts – articulate the business impacts as well. Do this for all 17 SDGs.

At the end of it you will have an advanced foundation for an SDG Impact Report. And, by looking at what you have strategically you can see where there many be opportunities for additional value and impact.


ESG, Sustainability & CSR should be as much a business value driver as it is a social and environmental value driver. If it gets out of balance it creates risk and makes the CSR and indeed, even the business itself, potentially less sustainable.

Business is about creating value. CSR is also about creating value; value for society, for

environment and for shareholders.

Thanks for reading

Wayne Dunn

Founder and President

CSR |ESG Institute

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.