Can companies benefit from the UN's Sustainable Development Goals?

It’s essential that we all support sustainable development if we hope to conserve our Earth while still developing our society and economy.
Csaba Szabo
6 mins

It’s essential that we all support sustainable development if we hope to conserve our Earth while still developing our society and economy. We can all make a difference on an individual level, but businesses in particular play a crucial role in facilitating sustainable development.

When we speak of sustainable development, it’s also important to remember that it has three pillars: environmental, social and economic.

What are the Sustainable Development Goals

To help us all live in a world that’s developing sustainably, the United Nations have devised 17 sustainable development goals used as universal calls to action – for governments, businesses, organisations and individuals alike.

On a governmental level, these goals were adopted by all of its member states in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development aiming to achieve these goals within 15 years.

There are 17 goals in total set by the United Nations:

  1. End poverty
  2. End world hunger
  3. Good health and wellbeing for all
  4. Inclusive and equitable quality education
  5. Gender equality and female empowerment
  6. Clean water and sanitation for all
  7. Affordable, sustainable and reliable energy
  8. Sustainable economic development and decent work for all
  9. Building resilient, sustainable and innovative infrastructure
  10. Reducing inequality between and within countries
  11. Making cities safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable
  12. Responsible consumption and production patterns
  13. Action against climate change
  14. Ocean conservation and sustainable use of its resources
  15. Protecting and restoring land ecosystems
  16. Peaceful and inclusive societies where all have access to justice
  17. Implementing partnerships to achieve these goals

Why each business needs to play its part

As United Nations member states take action to fulfil these goals, it’s important that we too – whether as individuals or as business leaders – take initiative to help accomplish the goals.

We mentioned before that businesses are a very important part of society. The resources they have at their disposal and their own impact on the environment and society make them responsible for taking action.

Considering how powerful some big companies have become in the past decades, meeting Sustainable Development Goals would be very hard without their initiative – but even small local businesses have a lot of power, as they can affect how sustainably their whole customer base behaves.

We’re long past the time when businesses and their leaders could afford to separate themselves from the environment and society they exist in.

Benefits of following the Sustainable Development Goals

Helping meet the Sustainable Development Goals isn’t just a moral responsibility for businesses – it can also help them achieve a number of benefits, which will help make the business stronger and more profitable.

  • Meeting customer expectations

Every one of us is becoming more conscious of the environmental and social issues we are facing, collectively – especially younger generations. This means that our expectations of what businesses need to do environmentally and socially are increasing.

Businesses which disrespect sustainable development goals are under increasing scrutiny, which is only enhanced by how readily available information is online. Companies which proactively seek to improve their sustainability, on the other hand, are often favoured.

In an age when brand image is crucial to profitability, being perceived as a company that truly cares about the world is an important differentiating factor that should not be overlooked!

  • Being ready for change

As governmental bodies are increasing environmental regulations businesses need to abide by, it’s best to be ready in advance so that these regulations don’t take you by surprise down the line. Businesses which implement these changes earlier, on their own schedule, can do so in a way that’s not just environmentally and socially responsible, but also economically sustainable.

  • Reducing costs and increasing productivity

Many changes towards sustainable development can help businesses reduce costs and increase their productivity, as their whole supply chains are made more efficient.

While implementing technologies such as green energy use can be associated with some upfront costs, they pay off massively in the long run and make the business more resilient.

  • Attracting investors and employees

No investor or employee wants to be associated with a company responsible for ethical or environmental scandals.

Implementing environmental and social responsibility through plans to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals makes the business more attractive to any stakeholders, as the perceived risks of associating oneself with the brand are much lower.

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