Supporting UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) Initiative
Trend 1: Business is stepping up its action for supporting SDGs
The private sector has advanced greatly over the last five years in aligning sustainability strategies and reporting with the SDGs, studies show the gap between ambition and action is getting smaller as awareness of SDGs increases, suggesting that business is realizing its potential to contribute to the SDGs. UNITED NATIONS, New York, 21 September 2022 — At the start of the high-level opening week of the 77th Session of the General Assembly week, Chief Executives from UN Global Compact companies and representatives from Governments, the United Nations and development agencies gathered in New York during Uniting Business LIVE to align on an urgent and collective course of action to put the world back on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. We need to think of the SDGs as a potential business opportunity, as a driver of investment. Tackle it like any business issue and take advantage of the opportunity to move the needle on Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability from the margins of business to being fundamental to business strategy, embedded in business as usual.
The obvious route we look to is through formal CR or Sustainability programmes but we need to think broader! It’s a chance to look for commercial solutions to social and/or environmental problems. Of course, one business cannot save the world but should focus efforts on where they can create shared value. Reflect on; what is your business model? Where are your strategic priorities? What resources, skills, talent, finances, and networks can you deploy to have the greatest impact on society? And then, map that to the goals to identify which ones to tackle. And this is exactly what progressive businesses are starting to do.
The below goals seem to resonate the most with business:
Goal 5: Gender Equality
It will take 117 years<http://www.ey.com/GL/en/Issues/Business-environment/women-fast-forward> to achieve to achieve gender parity despite the fact that the business and economic case seems clear. We know share prices have the potential to rise by 26%; if a company has one or more women on the board. We know we can add $12tn<http://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/employment-and-growth/how-advancing-womens-equality-can-add-12-trillion-to-global-growth> to global growth if we achieve gender parity. Couple this with the fact that by 2028 the global income of women is predicted to rise from $13 to 18trn, meaning more financial independence, more decision making and importantly for businesses looking for opportunity, more spending power.
Goal 8: Economic Growth and Decent Work
A goal many businesses have identified as key and can contribute to simply by virtue of their existence, providing employment and paying taxes, etc. Entrepreneurs and SME’s are massive drivers of economic growth and development especially in emerging countries but with 50% of SME’s lacking access to finance this significantly hinders their growth. Financial products like microfinance and microinsurance can play a role here. They are commercial solutions to social and environmental issues.
Goal 13: Climate Action
Climate change is predicted to drive 100 million more people into poverty in the next 15 years unless action is taken. We know the most poor in the world will be the most affected but no one is immune. Climate change could cut the value of the world’s financial assets by $2.5t, according to the first estimate from economic modelling, potentially propelling us into another financial crisis. And over 60% of investors are concerned about the risk that ‘stranded assets’ may pose. Capital market investment is required to invest in the transition to a low carbon economy and we’ve seen the likes of the rise of climate and green bonds; driven by early adopters recognising the business value of taking climate action.
Trend 2: Investment into projects with SDG awareness as a priority
Studies show that the access to investment in ESG is higher than ever and the cost of investment into ESG projects is lower. It is notable that Business growth in those that promote the achievement of the 2030 targets of the SDGs for sustainable development. Embracing Diversity and Inclusion within the workforce, as well as supporting gender equality is at the forefront of investment strategies as a way to promote sustainable development, deliver societal impact, reduce the role of the informal economy, boost job creation and generate higher profits. With Biodiversity loss being one of the biggest environmental challenges facing the world. Investors in wellness projects are viewing this as an opportunity to back projects that could have a positive impact on battling biodiversity loss and achieve SDG 15 ‘Life on Land’.
SDG15 focuses on protecting, restoring and promoting the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably managing forests, combatting desertification, and halting and reversing land degradation.
Investors looking to support Biodiversity are focusing on include those in mixed plantation forestry for sustainable commercial timber production, sustainable construction materials, production of compost and bio-fertilisers from food waste, affordable irrigation systems, agricultural logistics services, food processing and collection services, and biotechnology.
Trend 3: SDGs help business and individuals to understand that sustainability is more than plastic recycling and climate change
A decade ago sustainability was an uncommon word, and was used occasionally to describe anything that would maintain over time. Then the term gained new meaning as increasingly scientific studies were published with data relating to environment, most commonly plastic pollution and climate change and its impact on our planet. SDGs are a framework that supports all factors of sustainability. It appears that sustainability is successfully breaking down silos within businesses (and industries). Sustainability cuts across many different business departments and job descriptions. Realising this, businesses are increasingly creating bridges between divisions and departments to allow for a better understanding of their climate, environmental and social impacts. This is done with cross- departmental training, interdisciplinary collaboration and task cross- pollination as examples.
Trend 4: The sprouting of regenerative micro communities
Regenerative practices, which have not been uncommon in agricultural communities and villages, are spilling over into non-traditional spaces, eg apartment blocks and shopping centres. See for example Burwood Brickworks; in Melbourne. This new direction is largely stimulated by net positive building developments. The idea of “regenerative sustainability” is more in line with creating a situation in which humans and nature continue to thrive, advance, and get healthier over time. It’s a holistic approach to sustainability that sees the resources humans use to survive and the humans themselves as equals, each one requiring respect, care, and happiness. The challenge with regenerative sustainability is that it requires a paradigm shift; for it to be effective, humans have to completely alter how we, as a whole, see our relationship with earth and our responsibility to earth.
Indigenous communities in the US and all over the globe have been practicing regenerative sustainability for centuries. You’ve probably heard of controlled burns that were conducted by tribes in the US to help keep the forests healthy and reduce the risk of wildfires. Eventually, the government intervened and prohibited or severely limited these practices, and in the years since, wildfires have been running rampant. Also known for sustainable farming practices, refraining from using chemicals, and often moving around to not place too much damage in one area of earth for elongated periods of time, indigenous communities have seen their relationship with the planet through a regenerative lens throughout history. We have a lot to learn from native tribes and other communities who called these lands home before the era of colonization swept the earth. Perhaps one of the biggest lessons learnt from indigenous communities that have been illustrating for centuries is the power of eco-villages and micro-communities and the role these small, regenerative villages play in finding harmony with the resources they use to survive. Ecovillages today exist all over the US, with upwards of 400 communities being widely known.