How the UN Sustainable Development Goals can be a force for good business

How the UN Sustainable Development Goals can be a force for good business

By Dr Paul Toyne

Reporting against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has increasing business support

For me, one pleasing aspect of 2018 has been the increasing trend of business recognition of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development goals (SDGs) as a framework for reporting their performance against important issues, which are relevant globally. I have been looking at recent SD and CSR reports in energy, utilities and waste sectors and reference to company performance against the SDGs is very visible. The SDGs are wide ranging, after all there are 17 goals, and include poverty, education, gender equality, as well as environment issues like climate action,life on land and in the oceans. The goals also include topics such as health and well-being and sustainable infrastructure and cities. Below are the goals.

Why is there the need for SDGs?

Well, despite the fact that we have made progress lifting people out of poverty, increasing their access to safe water and sanitation, and increasing human longevity during a period of rapid population growth, we still have much more to do, especially in averting catastrophic climate change.

Why should the SDGs matter for business?

Regardless of the size of your business your operations will touch the SDGs. Your motivations for understanding the connection between your operations and them may vary. For example, I have been working with a business that wants to demonstrate that it is a force for good: acting locally but thinking globally. Another business,supplies into a business that is using the SDGs to set targets, so wants to demonstrate alignment and a sense of shared purpose. Whereas another business is using them as a framework to supported an integrated approach to place-making,so a very practical application. Furthermore, SDGs provide another lens through which to consider materiality for a business, this where the real value is for all businesses.

As a business what is the value in reporting against SDGs

My reflections from the assessments that I have led is that there is real value to be gained if the assessment is not simply used it as a tick box exercise at the highest level, but looks at the targets and indicators for each goal, assessing their relevance to the business.Typically, the answer will depend on where the business is in relation to the whole value chain. Interestingly, and this is similar with setting science-based targets for greenhouse gas emissions, for a client and tier one supplier the assessments show the importance of the complete supply chain. Even for small-sized business SDG assessments highlights their supply chain.

Understanding your supply chain

Where do the goods and products bough directly or used by sub-contractors use come from? Does their procurement create positive economic, social and environmental outcomes? How do you know? 

Recognising where the risks and opportunities are in this chain is invaluable as you can put in place actions to improve performance. In addition, there will be goals where your business can make a direct contribution, for example in health and well-being, and climate action. Such positive impacts can be promoted and different audiences will have an interest be that customers, employees, suppliers and investors.

Simple actions you should consider:

  • Align your materiality processes to the SDGs
  • Develop or align your business strategy demonstrating your purpose and force for good that you can exert through business performance, and
  • Define your company’s strategy with actions to improve performance in these areas
  • Communication your performance to investors, customers, staff and suppliers

If you would like to discuss undertaking a SDG assessment please contact me directly:

Email:;                    Tel: +447940594673;    


Copyright: Paul Toyne. December 2018

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