Sustainable Development Goals: The clock is ticking…

Chloe Nunn

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an excellent framework for driving sustainability, but why aren’t they utilised more in industrial and commercial settings?

Are they too broad and far reaching? In total they state 169 targets – aligning programs in business with the SDGs could be an overwhelming task.

Are they too generally marketed as requiring bigger picture activities not directly related to business activities?

Is the potential of sustainability frameworks known within business?

The Sustainable Development Goals

There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals, created by the 2015 United Nations General Assembly. They cover the core requirements to ensure wellbeing for future generations on Earth.

Within each goal a series of targets and associated indicators are stated to guide the work of institutions, non-governmental organisations, and businesses. This ensures that there is a measurable way of tracking the goals which are intended to be achieved by 2030, now only a decade away.

Meeting the goals

Our World in Data’s SDG tracker shows the indicators used for each goal, including their progress. Similarly, The World Bank Database allows anyone to pull relevant data, although this isn’t organised by SDG. These are excellent tools if you already understand what you’re looking for and how you can use them. To a new observer however, looking at the indicators could suggest that there is nothing a business could do to directly influence them.

Indicator 6.1.1 (Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, Target 1: By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all) is the ‘Proportion of population using safely managed drinking water services’. This could easily be relegated to NGO’s, like WaterAid, as a developing country problem: something which businesses could only provide a financial contribution to. But thinking critically about this indicator, actually any business providing its employees with safely managed water services is already contributing to Target 6.1. Perhaps in many countries this is a given now but thinking more about the relationship between businesses and the roles they play not only in their customers’ lives, but also in their employees’ lives and the services they offer is critical to their sustainability ambitions.

In the waste industry, the handling of refuse can have a huge impact on water supplies and the environment. Breaking these relationships down helps to identify where businesses are already supporting the positive advancement of SDG indicators and where they could be doing more.

It’s easy to pick out the key industry SGDs: 8, 9 and 12, and translate them into intentional practices within businesses. Unfortunately, in order for the SDGs to succeed by the 2030 deadline, companies need to be more systematic in considering their true impact across the ‘sustainability’ board and begin contributing more holistically. That might even mean identifying areas where they may already be acting positively towards many targets. This can provide marketing opportunities to show customers what you support and the positive impacts you’re making. By digging deeper into the actions of business, sometimes cost-savings are even uncovered.

Lack of data

One of the factors limiting the success of the Goals at the moment is lack of data, further impacted by the challenges faced by and ‘buy in’ from organisations and businesses which have the resource potential to measure SDG indicators. In a world of advancing and more accessible technology however, this is becoming easier.

Urgency to protect our futures

The ongoing bushfires in Australia highlight the urgency in protecting our futures and our resources going forwards. There is no better time for business to commit to the SDGs, and use their positions in society to measure, manage, and progress the Goals.

How Valpak can help

For over 20 years, Valpak has been collecting detailed product and packaging data to help customers comply with environmental legislation and using this data we have developed an online tool called the Insight Platform.

The Platform consists of three different suites and the Sustainable Development Suite encompasses reporting functionality that is closely linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It consists of modules which help businesses monitor their activity to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

For a free consultation on our Insight Platform please contact us.

You can watch a webinar on this topic in your Members Area