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With a mission to create a set of universal goals that would help tackle the global economic, political, and environmental challenges we face, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were created at the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro. As the successor of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), this new set aimed to tackle more than just the indignity of poverty. With this change, the previously eight MDGs turned into a total of 17 SDGs, with the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development being the UN platform that regularly follows-up on and reviews these SDGs.
The challenges faced in today’s world cannot be tackled independently from each other, which is why all 17 SDGs are heavily integrated as action that takes place in one area, such as poverty, is sure to affect the outcomes in others, such as education, inequalities, hunger and so on. As a global society, there has been a visible shift to become more sustainable, however there is still a long way to go.
Now living in an ecologically conscious world, it is crucial for businesses and organizations to consider sustainability from conception. The core values and culture of your corporation need to align with the SDGs, as they provide a guideline on how to implement sustainable action and deal with customers, employees, and stakeholders. Seeing as it is almost unattainable for one company to effectively work towards all 17 goals, there is a need to select those that fall in line with the company’s mission and vision, and work towards the selected few. These goals need to be embedded into the business’ core values. In the case that a business’ purpose or values do not reflect the SDGs or if they do so insufficiently, these two elements need to be redefined.
One may ask why there is a need for redefining. This is simply because variables such as consumers, investors, employees, and opportunities all determine the success of a business. In today’s world, these factors are based on or make sustainable decisions. Therefore, with consumers for example, if they choose to only associate with or buy from sustainable businesses, those that are not will naturally have to adapt to sustainability in order to keep up with the demands of the consumer. This will be the same case with investors who only want to invest in sustainable businesses, employees that only want to work for sustainable businesses, and opportunities that will only be offered to businesses that are sustainable.
It is not good enough, however, to just incorporate the SDGs into the core of your business. There needs to be a regular assessment of your sustainability journey to ensure that you are working towards it at the best of your ability.
By having a problem-response system, you make it easier for your business or organization to tackle any sustainable issues at hand. When you ensure that you have a response, or create a new one, to the problems that you face, you are able to move towards a more sustainable way of doing business.
An example of this would be how in some sustainable hospitals, sterilization wraps are recycled. After use, they are collected and sent to the social industry where people with a disability are fairly paid to clean the wraps. At this point they do not contain any hazardous products. Those people have the job of cleaning the wraps, plying them, and stacking them to make them recycle-ready. The recycled wraps are then extruded, cleaned, granulated and ready to be used to make new products. Having a response like this to the problem of (hazardous) waste contributes to several SDGs such as decent work and economic growth, responsible consumption and production, sustainable cities and communities, peace, justice and strong institutions, climate actions and many more.
It is crucial for us as a global community to work towards being more sustainable, and big businesses, organizations and institutions play an important role in this process.