Ihor Dlaboha is a consultant who has worked for the UN helping to organize four UN DPI NGO Conferences. He also has over 40 years experience as a journalist.
The Sustainable Development Goals or 2030 Agenda offer benefits for everyone on the planet and it behooves everyone to abide by their principles. Even businesses should integrate sustainable environmental, social and governance issues into their business models – and act on them.
The SDGs grew out of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight targets that were designed for the onset of 2000 16 years ago but in time deemed inadequate to improve life as we know it on this planet.
Consequently, they were expanded by a partnership of UN member-states and non-governmental organizations to include 17 goals and 169 targets that address critical issues facing the world and cities, your business, such as the eradication of extreme poverty, tackling global inequality and climate change, promoting sustainable urbanization and industrial development, protecting natural ecosystems, and fostering growth of peaceful and inclusive communities and governing institutions. Hopefully these goals and targets will be attained within 15 years, by 2030 thus their secondary moniker – 2030 Agenda. (Click tosee all of them):
In my last blog, I urged NGOs to participate in the campaign to promote their work and SDGs. However, as you can see from the SDG chart, all segments of society can benefit from them and participate in them. Entrepreneurs and businesspeople should not belittle these goals as something for tree huggers, altruists or social reformers. Learning about the SDGs and incorporating their tenets into their business plans will contribute to their bottom lines.
One major reason for this direct relationship is that your consumers not only support sustainability but expect the marketplace to actively favor them as well.
Many companies – your colleagues and competitors – today are making a conscious effort to put sustainable practices into action. The understand that doing so not only helps the environment and society, but it also creates goodwill for their reputations and contribute positively to their brands’ health and performance. It can help them gain greater market share.
But do consumers really care about socially aware capitalism when it comes to buying decisions? Are they willing to pay more for products and services that come from companies that engage in actions that further global social good?
According to numerous recent surveys, consumers have expressed the opinion that they care about the environment and extreme poverty around the world. Their conviction converts to action when it comes to buying decisions, reported Nielsen. Assuming a positive ratio between a stated willingness to pay and an actual willingness to open one’s wallet, the survey found that the answer is yes for a growing number of consumers around the world.
So social responsibility, sustainability and profits go hand-in-hand in today’s marketplace.
Research conducted by Research+Data Insights for Hill+Knowlton Strategies and Environmental Defense Fund found that 91% of Americans believe it’s important for companies to implement greater corporate sustainability practices, while nearly 63% expect companies to actively pursue and implement such policies.
Furthermore, 62% of Americans want to learn more about private sector efforts to improve energy efficiency and 82% of Americans report that increased transparency around climate change initiatives will increase the trust they have in a company.
This trend includes millennials with an estimated $170 billion of purchasing power. Their appetite for green products and services is higher than previous generations. DDB Worldwide Communications reports that millennials are twice as likely as boomers to own a hybrid car and seven times as likely to own an electric car.
The study also found that 51% of respondents indicate reports from third-party organizations are the most credible means by which a company can convey its efforts to be more energy efficient.
Other surveys found:
- 9 out of 10 consumers consider environmental impact when making a purchase
- Nearly 50% of Americans value being environmentally conscious over a growing economy
- 72% would recommend a brand that supports a good cause over one that doesn’t
- 1 in 2 consumers are willing to pay more for products and services from eco-friendly companies
- Nearly half of shoppers purchase from at least one “green” brand a month
- 76% of consumers say the best way to confirm a company’s eco-friendly claims is a certification
- 62% of people prefer to work for companies that regularly give back
- Two-thirds of American consumers regularly read instructions on how to properly dispose a product
- 78% of shoppers will refuse to purchase from a company that is misleading about green practices
While the ultimate intention of going green should be to do your part and give back to your community, there are tangible benefits aside from that “doing good” feeling. With consumers preferring to support green companies, businesses can develop a more loyal customer base by promoting their eco-friendly practices.
Green initiatives can also save money: reducing packaging materials, minimizing transportation costs and installing energy-efficient lighting are just some of the ways environmentally savvy companies are cutting costs; emailing documents instead of printing them; and switching out traditional light bulbs for compact fluorescents (CFLs).
Many companies have admitted that they are actively integrating sustainability principles into their businesses, according to a recent McKinsey Global survey. They are doing so by pursuing goals that go far beyond earlier concern for reputation management—for example, saving energy, developing green products, and retaining and motivating employees, all of which help companies capture value through growth and return on capital. These executives also stated that sustainability programs make a positive contribution to their companies’ short and long-term value.
Businesspeople aren’t merely blindly accepting sustainability but rather they reported a more well-rounded understanding of sustainability and its expected benefits. They see the potential for supporting corporate reputation, but they also expect operational and growth-oriented benefits in the areas of cutting costs and pursuing opportunities in new markets and products.
An overwhelming number of executives, 94%, reported their companies have integrated sustainability into strategic planning, versus 53% of all other respondents.
Going green in your business can not only help build trust and authority with customers – or thought leadership as I have written, but it can also reduce operating expenses and qualify your business for more tax breaks. But the bottom line is that it’s not just about profitability—it’s also about a culture change; it’s about creating a sustainable lifestyle in your marketplace and community.
Incorporating sustainability into your businesses culture involves becoming aware of the impact of your choices in business, the marketplace, food, products and energy use, and consequently your domestic lives.
The SDGs present an opportunity for business-led solutions and technologies to be developed and implemented to address the world’s biggest sustainable development challenges. As the SDGs form the global agenda for the development of our societies, they will allow leading companies to demonstrate how their businesses help advance sustainable development, both by minimizing negative impacts and maximizing positive impacts on people and the planet.
The SDGs can help to connect business strategies with global priorities. Companies can use the SDGs as an overarching framework to shape, steer, communicate and report their strategies, goals and activities, allowing them to capitalize on a range of mutual benefits.
As you launch your SDG campaign, don’t forget to promote your work in your marketplace, industry, with stakeholders, civil society and other hometown resources. Align your business programs with NGO projects. Distribute press releases – yes, the old-fashioned media are still productive. Take photos and post them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and elsewhere. Share them and retweet others’ photos and posts. Don’t forget to use the appropriate Twitter handles, which are easy to find on the Internet and don’t forget to use hashtags and handles such as #UN, #SDGs, #2030Agenda, #globalgoals, #sustainability, @globalcompact @UN and others.
This outreach will help you inform a wide range of potential followers that will be attracted to your business and the SDGs.
As Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, correctly observed: “Business is a vital partner in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”
For more ideas on how businesses can partner in the SDG campaign, visit http://www.sdgcompass.org.
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