Sustainable Development Goals

Chart_of_UN_Sustainable_Development_Goals

New KPIs for the Planet and the Role of Business

Launched in September 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals are the new KPIs for the planet to 2030, and they position business as a vital partner to achieving sustainable development.

The Global Goals presents Irish business with a new framework that will inform the design, delivery and communication of their sustainable and responsible business practices. Irish business needs to have articulated position on the Global Goals as stakeholders (be they government, customers, employees, civil society) will increasingly demand it.

Ireland played a notable role in their design, with David Donoghue, Ireland’s Ambassador to the UN together with Kenya, acting as key negotiators.

As the network for responsible business, we will actively work with our members and key stakeholders to define what they mean for Irish business, and support business to take a progressive and leading role in an Irish context.   Our work with Strategist and Leader members will support strategic alignment to relevant Global Goals, and our Engage members, including those active in our Business Action on Education and Employment initiatives, will focus on addressing some key societal agendas such as youth employment, educational attainment and social inclusion.

What is the business case for aligning with SDGs?

Over time a competitive advantage will be gained by the companies that understand the opportunities and challenges presented by the Global.

For more information please see the SDG Business Hub of our Global Partner, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

What do the Global Goals offer Irish business?

The business case for the Goals is underpinned by some fundamental principles and it is useful to reflect on these in order to appreciate what the Goals present business.

The Global Goals are a complex matrix of 17 goals and 169 indicators, and there is ready scope to take a cynical view on what impact they can have. They are broad aspirations which belong to many stakeholders, and the UN leadership is based on voluntary engagement.

However it can equally be contended that the Global Goals offer a new and vital opportunity for positive economic, social and environmental change.  It is clear that this opportunity will only be realised if relevant actors show leadership and engage with the framework presented by the Goals.  From an Irish perspective, business leadership on the Goals will differentiate Irish companies as progressive and innovative in sustainable and responsible business practice.

  1. The Goals are as relevant to Ireland as they are to Germany, Afghanistan, Canada, Puerto Rico – they are not the concern of international development agency and entities such as Irish Aid. They make all countries a developing country, and this is a highly significant aspect of the framework.  Each country is requested to submit an annual report to the UN on their progress against the Goals.  In time such progress reports will inform the positioning and reputation of Ireland as a leader in sustainable development.
  2. The Goals provide a common language and framework and this is significant as it gets everyone focused on a common agenda, based on a universal language and code that all stakeholders can engage on.  This addresses a real barrier to constructive dialogue to create change, and will foster debate at political, economic and social levels on critical issues.
  3. The Goals place environment centre stage, and provide an explicit narrative and link between issues of climate change and poverty.  The Goals give clear statements of how a rise of 20C would make poverty eradication increasingly implausible if we don’t make radical systemic changes – this is a key step forward in the dialogue of sustainable development.
  4. The Goals establish how local action and local movements are critical for progress.  Ownership is clearly assigned to local actors from government to civil society to business to academia. The framework offers a structured way to connect global challenges to national actors, and presents an approach that is premised on a capacity to change systems based on proactive engagement of key stakeholders. The Goals give a practical expression to the hope that systematic changes are possible.
  5. The Goals position partnership as necessary to achieve the scale, innovation and impact needed for their attainment.  Public private partnership is required to move from transactional based relationships to transformational to reach the Goals. Businesses need to look at transformational change in regard to supply chains, and adoption of shared value approaches with stakeholders.

Is business responding?

Business leadership is emerging internationally on the Goals, and many discussions are taking place within countries and within various sectors.  Businesses such as BT, Phillips, IKEA are talking about how they link to and impact on the various goals; compensative analysis is being done by KPMG, EY and PWC.

At a collective level, the Business & Sustainable Development Commission is investigating how the private sector can realise significant long-term economic rewards and help to achieve the Goals. We are engaged in this dialogue through our status as WBCSD Global Partner.

Where to now?

Our vision is to make all companies in Ireland sustainable and responsible and we look forward to aligning the Sustainable Development Goals with our vision so we can work with our members on transformational change.