Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs – intend to contribute to sustainable and regenerative development. Businesses and business leaders could play a critical role in this regard.
But are they? That is the question!
Private sector organisations are seen, by the United Nations, as crucial to helping solve a wide-range of development challenges through initiatives such as SDG Impact and guidelines related to the engagement with the Sustainable Development Goals, that have to be achieved by 2030.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future. They address the global challenges we face, including the ones related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace, and justice.
But, the truth is that, despite efforts, inequalities are rising, especially for those most impacted by the mounting climate crisis. The changes that are taking place are not significant enough to match the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda, according to the United Nations Global Compact Report Progress 2019.
With global progress falling short in critical areas, it is clear that no sector of society is doing enough, including business.
Businesses’ contribution to the SDGs is “simply not on track”, according to a U.N. Global Compact and Accenture study: The decade to deliver – A call business action.
This study shows us that just 21% of CEOs believe business is playing a critical role in contributing to the Global Goals. And they recognize that even their businesses are not doing enough.
The challenges faced in this VUCA world, as we talked in our article: Being a Conscious Leader in a VUCA world: a utopia or an emergency? have been pressuring business leaders and distracting them from putting the effort into sustainability.
According to the above-mentioned report, the main pointed economic constraints and business pressures are:
- cite “absence of market pull” as a top barrier to implementing sustainable business, pointed by 28% of CEOs;
- 43% of the world’s largest companies cite competing strategic priorities as a top barrier in implementing sustainability
- 55% say pressure to operate with extreme cost-consciousness against investing in longer-term strategic objectives is a key trade-off that they are facing 63% say political uncertainty across markets is the most critical global issue for their companies’ competitive strategies, and 42% say it is reducing or stalling their sustainability efforts.
But, why organisations are not fully engaging with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
As we see it, SDGs represent a great opportunity for organisations to capitalize on new business opportunities, create jobs, and make the difference by contributing positively to society and the environment.
Smart CEOs also know that sustainable business is good business, with 73 percent reporting that it builds trust and reputation, and 44 per cent pointing to opportunities for sustainability to generate revenue and meet demands from consumers.
Importantly, it is the CEOs themselves who are making the Global Goals a priority, with 85 per cent stating that they are personally committed to ensuring that their company is a sustainability leader.
As a curiosity, the top three Global Goals that companies report taking action on are Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, Goal 5: Gender Equality and Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being. On the other hand, the Goals receiving the least attention are Goal 15: Life on Land, Goal 2: No Hunger and Goal 14: Life Below Water.
Encouragingly, nearly 90 percent of companies have policies and practices in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment, and anti-corruption.
However, the potential for embedding these universal principles is not fully realized. While most companies have policies and processes (91%), they are not cascaded throughout their business and across the supply chain (only 27% do it).
Some studies suggest that while the private sector may be expanding philanthropic giving or Corporate Social Responsibility programs, few are shifting business models to support the SDGs.
A study conducted by Verizon and Devex that included two complementary surveys: an online survey of over 850 experienced global development professionals and an in-depth interview survey of 31 corporate and development leaders, concluded that:
- 94% of respondents agree that CEOs and corporate leaders are important in driving the discussions around the SDGs
- 88% believe that to achieve the agenda they must engage with the development community.
- 89% of online survey respondents say the private sector is not engaging enough with the development community to advance the SDGs
- 61% say that business priorities are not aligned with development issues.
But the thing is that business leaders can energize and broker development partnerships in ways government leaders cannot. They also bring unique insights and expertise in innovation, marketing, and other areas that are critical for socio-economic development.
This is a win-win situation since a business that is sustainable is always good business.
So what can and should business leaders do to contribute to 2030’s targets?
1. Raising ambition and impact in their organisations and industries, by accelerating market-drivers – including via adopting new technologies and engaging customers and consumers in more conscious and sustainable business models
2. Collaborating to shape realistic, science-based and collaborative solutions, by dialoguing with governments and other stakeholders to create the right market conditions
3. Defining responsible leadership for 2030, by leaders being personally committed to ensuring that their organisations lead on the sustainable development agenda
With 2030 only ten years away, it’s time for organisations to stop thinking about sustainability as futureproofing or a competitive opportunity for the future, and start to position it as an imperative for action right now.
Organisations, and their leaders, MUST, more and more, to look beyond near-term profits, by becoming more conscious and embracing their roles as change agents.
To achieve SDGs and benefit from its achievement contribution, leaders have to personally take a stand and inspire pioneering change within the firm and beyond it, to drive broader systems transformation required to achieve the goals.
AMARNA Consulting is here to help you and your organisation to embrace your role in SDGs achievement.
Continue to follow our link in the page and visit us at www.amarnavida.com/
Happy to help your organisation become more conscious.
Founder and Managing Director
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