The Sustainable Development Goals were developed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 as a framework for building the future in a sustainable and socially responsible way. The 17 goals include things like eradicating poverty and ensuring that clean water and sanitation are available to all. They also include specific targets and measures to ensure that participating stakeholders are helping to achieve the goals in a way that assures long-term benefits and success.
Although participation in the achievement of the SDGs is not required, it’s considered the blueprint for future sustainability, and it provides the framework for business regulation and legislative practices. Furthermore, impact investors look to the SDGs to determine if companies that they want to add to their portfolio are participating in meaningful change. Business owners can benefit from paying attention to the SDGs and implementing them in their business strategies.
But, what does it look like for companies to include the SDGs in their business practices, and how will investing in these changes encourage company growth and future success? Let’s take a look.
Sustainability is the future of business. We can see that through legislative ideas like Extended Producer Responsibility—which state that producers should be financially liable for their impact on the environment—new business approaches like the Triple Bottom Line—businesses have a responsibility to society, the environment, and their profits—and customers’ growing demand that the businesses they support practice sustainability. There is no doubt businesses that want to succeed in the long run need to start implementing responsible social and sustainability practices today.
Implementing the SDGs in your business model is the best way to ensure that your sustainability strategies are meaningful. The SDGs are the blueprint for sustainability and social change. They are designed to create meaningful and lasting change. They are targeted and measurable, guaranteeing that those who are implementing the SDGs in their business strategies aren’t simply greenwashing; they’re truly making a difference. This makes your company more desirable for customers and investors who care about your impact.
Furthermore, as the framework for sustainability practices, the SDGs are also the foundation for business regulations and sustainability legislation. Including the SDGs in your strategies shows forward-thinking, helping your company to anticipate future policy changes and avoid fines and other complications.
Sustainability strategies also make you more attractive as an employer. Modern employees want to work for companies that align with their values, including sustainability and ethical business practices. Additionally, many of the SDGs address inequality. Implementing these goals in your hiring practices will open your doors to a wider range of talent and improve your workforce overall.
How your company can advance the SDGs
The SDGs cannot be achieved by a single company; you don’t have to implement every single goal in your business strategy. But, you should do as much as you can.
Just like implementing any new business strategy, know that it takes time. Start with the goals that you are sure you can help achieve. You can even stick to a single goal at a time. The key is to always be moving toward something better.
To advance the SDGs, you first need to identify the SDGs that you want to align yourself with. Start with a single SDG so that you can create detailed, focused strategies for achievement. Choose an SDG that goes with your industry. For example, if you are in the food industry, consider how you can contribute to the SDG6 goal of clean water and sanitation. Not only will aligning with this goal allow you to make a bigger impact because you are in a position to do so, but it will also align with your customers’ and potential investors’ expectations.
Once you’ve aligned with your SDGs, learn and understand the targets of each SDG. This will help you to implement your strategies in a way that will make a long-term impact. Once you know the targets of your SDG, you can start developing strategies for implementation. You can start small by making internal changes that align with that goal. Then, grow your impact by encouraging your supply chains to do the same, developing and implementing projects that align with the goal, and otherwise spreading your impact outside of your company.
Examples of SDG goals in business
Many companies have already aligned themselves with the SDGs and are doing what they can to ensure that the SDGs are achieved.
In 2011, Microsoft began launching digital hubs across Africa, giving access to provide professional development training to teachers. Through these hubs, teachers enjoy further training, developed leadership skills, and new methodology which they can in turn relay to other teachers who do not have access to these hubs. They have also participated in projects to improve refugee registration processes so that assistance can be better provided to them.
To improve supply chains and ensure that workers are treated fairly, H&M has collaborated with governments to ensure that workers are trained properly, fairly compensated, and enjoy humane working conditions. They partnered with those who live in the countries in question, feeling as though a foreign entity doesn’t have the right to tell another government what to do. This created a collaboration that improved not only H&M’s supply chains but the supply chains of all the companies who did business in these countries. They’ve also invested in projects designed to eradicate child workers and improve child labor laws.
The world’s second-largest brewer, SABMiller has two projects aligning with the SDGs. They have instituted the 4e Camino al Progresso Programme to help build up small businesses in Latin America and help them grow. Furthermore, they work with Ugandan farmers to help create marketing opportunities and decrease importation in favor of locally sourced ingredients.
Partner with TONTOTON while implementing further SDG strategies
Although aligning your company with the SDGs is an everlasting task—there will always be room for improvement and responsible businesses must constantly evaluate their impact—there is one way that you can begin your SDG journey today: by taking responsibility for your plastic waste with TONTOTON.
Through our certified plastic credit system, we allow our corporate partners to address the plastic waste that they produce. It works like this: your company purchases plastic credits amounting to the weight of the plastic that you want to take responsibility for, and we use that money to fund projects that remove plastic waste from vulnerable communities while providing support to the members of those communities.
We remove low-value, post-consumer plastic (what we call orphan plastic) from the environment by employing individuals in the local communities. We provide personal protective equipment, training, and competitive wages, allowing our workers to better support their families while enjoying a cleaner community. Once the plastic waste is collected, we send it to cement factories to be converted into energy and raw materials.
Our company’s business model aligns with the SDG1 goal of no poverty, the SDG11 goal of sustainable cities and communities, the SDG12 goal of responsible consumption and production, and the SDG14 goal of life below water.
We further encourage our corporate partners to take responsibility for their plastic waste beyond purchasing plastic credits. While removing plastic from the environment does make a positive impact, we need to eliminate the use of orphan plastic entirely if we want to save our oceans and the communities that are suffering from mismanaged plastic waste.
Interested in starting your SDG alignment journey? Partner with TONTOTON today.