Quick how-to guide: How to place the UN Global Goals at the heart of your business strategy

Our planet sits on a knifes-edge. From climate change and extreme poverty to social unrest and inequality, now is the time for organisations and individuals to act.

But progress is often easier said than done. How can you and your organisation contribute to creating a better world? That’s where the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) come in!

In 2015, the United Nations conceived 17 universal goals to mobilise global efforts toward creating a brighter future for humanity. These targets are a call to governments, businesses and society at large to combat the greatest global dilemmas of our time, by 2030.

And so, we’ve now entered the ‘decade of delivery’. We have under 10 years to put the world on a sustainable path, for the benefit of this generation, and those to come. Yes, it’s an aspirational goal, but it can be done with the passion, perseverance and collaborative spirit of humankind.

How to put the UN Global Goals at the heart of your strategy

Primarily targeted at the business sector, the 17 global priorities and aspirations provide an opportunity for purpose-led organisations to make a difference, for the greater good. They can harness their business solutions, technology and ingenuity to contribute to the goals via their core business operations.

The positive impact that organisations can make to the trajectory of our world cannot, and should not, be underestimated – and every business, no matter how big or small can participate. Here’s how to get started.

Integrating the SDGs into your business

Step 1: Engender support from the top

If your organisation is interested in contributing to the SDGs it must be a decision that is supported at the highest levels. Ensure your CEO and executive team is on board, and your organisation has a clear ‘why’ for wanting to align with the framework. It can be useful to draft a short ‘SDG why statement’ and promote this internally. Make sure your ’why’ is aligned with your company values and organisational strategy. By doing so, you can clearly articulate your reason for SDG commitment, help employees to understand how the SDGs fit into the overall strategy, as well as their part in SDG delivery. Empowering and inspiring your staff base to get behind the global goals is key to successfully meeting your SDG KPIs.

To take this one step further, you may also like to develop a business case for SDG integration and outline how your participation can drive future business opportunities. Here are just a few organisational benefits that may arise from contributing to the SDGs:

  • Attraction of strong internal talent (employees) based on inclusive business practices and sustainability performance
  • Increased employee morale, engagement and productivity (all of which have a clear economic benefit to the business)
  • Increased customer acquisition based on the perception of a company’s sustainability credentials
  • Identification of new business opportunities that are aligned with your SDG ethos and targets
  • A strengthening of stakeholder engagement, trust and tenure.

Step 2: Select your SDGs

It’s important to familiarise yourself with the SDG framework and all 17 goals. As you read them, some goals will be a natural fit with your organisation, whilst others will be hard to achieve. You don’t have to contribute to all the goals, in fact, you should aim to select between 4-8 goals for maximum focus and impact.

When selecting your SDGs, think about how your business can contribute to each goal across your operations and value chain. This involves thinking about the current, potential, positive and negative impacts that your organisation has on each goal, and how you can leverage these (either increase positive impacts or decrease negative ones).

Step 3: Determine your goals

When you have identified potential high impact areas and determined your goals, write down ‘proof points’ for how your organisation’s activities (across the value chain) can impact on each goal. For more information on how to align your business operations with the SDGs, check out the SDG Compass.

From there, it’s critical to set a range of KPIs for each goal, as well as baselines for each measure. This will enable you to track and measure your impact and success over time. Goals can either be:

  • Absolute – expected impact on society but does not take company performance into consideration. E.g. We will purchase 100% carbon offset credits by 30 June 2022
  • Relative – takes company performance per unit of output into consideration to meet the goal. E.g. We will use 10% less electricity to make one unit of production by 30 June 2022 (from 30 June 2021).

For inspiration on how other organisations have measured their success, click here. In addition, for ideas on how other organisations have creatively contributed to the goals, check out the Project Everyone initiative.

Step 4: Integrate your SDGs

For true impact to occur, your SDGs must be integrated within your organisation. Here are a few ideas you could consider:

  • Ensure your SDG aspirations are encapsulated in your vision, mission/purpose and values, and if not, look to amending them
  • Keep SDG progress font-of-mind by providing updates at staff meetings/events
  • Clearly articulate how each department impacts on certain SDGs and make this an ongoing focus (e.g. in meetings, departmental strategy documents etc.)
  • Integrate SDGs into performance reviews and remuneration schemes company-wide
  • Report SDG impact in corporate documents such as your Annual Report
  • Provide visibility of your SDGs at Board level and ensure goals are considered in long-term strategic planning
  • Explore aligned partnerships to help leverage core competencies and deepen your SDG impact.

Step 5: Measure and celebrate your success

Measurement and reporting are fundamental elements in your SDG strategy. We encourage you to report on:

  • Why you selected certain SDGs and how you plan to contribute to them
  • What impact you have made on the goals thus far (E.g. Have you met your targets? Why/why not?)
  • What future initiatives you have scoped to deepen your future impact and achieve long-term SDG KPIs.

We also encourage you to make your SDGs a public commitment via external promotion on channels such as your website, articles and publications, social media, events, product labelling, advertising and press/news articles, just to name a few.

You may also wish to announce your goals and commitment to global change on the UN Global Compact website here.

Global Goals inspiration

If you’re looking for a unique and effective way to contribute to the Global Goals, why not check out B1G1. A global business giving movement, B1G1 enables your organisation to seamlessly and securely give to causes around the world that directly align to the UN Global Goals.

There has never been a better time…

We cannot be complacent with our future. We must continue to push the bounds of what a fair and just world looks like. That responsibility lies with us all.

With more children going to bed without food, with gender inequality measures continuing to dwindle, and with the climate change race well and truly in flight, now is the time…

I call on you and your organisation to help create a better world – to stop injustice in its tracks and to a build sustainable future that we can all be proud of. I firmly believe that together we can transform our world, our environment, and create better living conditions for humanity. Join me in this movement and create your Global Goals story today.

Want to see SDG success in action? Check out how Dynamic Exchange have contributed to the Global Goals here.

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