The UN Sustainable Development Goals are part of an ambitious agenda to create a more sustainable world for everyone. They address the global challenges we are all now facing which include poverty, inequality, climate change, and environmental degradation, and “ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity”.
One of the aims of the 17 goals is for future development to balance social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Each of the goals sets out to address aspects of society that need to change if we are to protect our planet and provide an environment where all people can live in dignity and prosperity.
The UN estimates the cost of achieving the SDGs will be between $3.3 and $4.5 trillion per year.
They are a “blueprint to achieve a better and sustainable future for us all” but the bottom line is, if humanity does not dramatically change the way we live and run businesses, life will become increasingly difficult. We are already experiencing severe weather conditions, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, rising sea levels, and higher pollution, without action, these will get worse. We will not be able to survive if the resources we need – natural, social, financial, and manufactured – continue to be eroded. Sustainability is the only way forward.
For start-ups, this means they need to consider how their products and services will impact positively on society, incorporating at least one of the UN SDGs into their business plan. This is particularly relevant for businesses looking for funding as investment is now being redirected towards companies that address one or more of the SDGs. Companies that are aligned with the SDGs will also benefit from greater customer, employee, and stakeholder engagement.
In order to achieve economic success, businesses need to empower people, protect the environment, build trust and develop positive reputations. Through commitment to the Sustainable Development goals, more people will be brought into the global economy leading to new markets and future growth.
Business will not succeed in a failing society, it is therefore necessary to work towards sustainable growth. By incorporating innovation, partnerships, and finance into their long-term holistic goals, businesses can achieve sustainable growth which in turn will help to create a more stable society and preserve natural resources for future generations.
It is possible your company is already contributing to sustainable development without you even realising it. Perhaps you are already taking measures to reduce your carbon footprint, or you look after the health and well-being of your employees or you have an equal pay policy, all of these address one of the SDGs. However, here are some tips to help start-ups ensure SDGs are part of your business plan.
Start by understanding what the SDGs are, the UN provides comprehensive information on the 17 goals and 169 targets, start-ups should become familiar with them and then identify which of the SDGs their product or service links to. When defining priorities, analysis of both positive and negative contributions need to be considered.
When looking at which goals to support, it is better to find one or two your company can have more impact with, rather than trying to support as many as possible but with little engagement. Your company mission, culture, and values will need to reflect the goals you have chosen to link to.
Once you have decided on the SDGs your company will be aligned with, you will need to set clear goals to ensure all stakeholders are aware of the direction you are heading. Goals enable you to measure your progress and provide you with a framework to work within. As a start-up, resources may be limited so it will be important to focus on one or two metrics to work towards.
Finally, you will need to report on your company’s performance in realising the SDGs you have linked with and communicate your progress. This could be achieved simply via blogs or on social media using the hashtag #SDGs or by including the information in an annual report you send to your stakeholders.
Sustainable Network works alongside businesses aligned with one or more of the SDGs and provides them with all the resources required to accelerate their environmental and societal impact. This includes access to exclusive values-based mentorship programmes that align personal and core values to Sustainability, measuring progress, and contribution to the SDGs. Our team of mentors and sustainability consultants is on hand to provide you with the support required to make measured and permanent change to the world we live in. Please register for further information via our website.
Startus Insights analysed over three thousand start-ups and technologies that are advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals and highlighted one for each of the 17 SDGs.
Swedish start-up Vultus addresses SDG 2 Zero Hunger, through a farming platform helping farmers achieve higher yields. Their satellite solution can help determine exact fertilizer requirements and detect threats long before they are visible to the naked eye.
UK company EMSOL is addressing SDG 11. Sustainable Cities & Communities. Their air quality solution tells fleet owners which of their vehicles are polluting in real-time, so immediate action can be taken to reduce emissions and help reach net-zero targets. They also offer a solution to reduce noise pollution in urban settings.
Another example of a start-up aligning with SDGs is Uncommon Cacao. They prioritised two SDGs 1. No Poverty and 10. Reducing Inequality. Working with small farmers in Belize and Guatemala, they connect them with premium chocolate companies looking for sustainable ingredients. Through showing price transparency they have been able to improve farmers’ incomes.
Early adopters of the SDGs will benefit by gaining better reputations, future-proofed supply chains, and greater growth. While achieving the SDGs will undoubtedly be challenging, they are crucial if businesses are to contribute to improving our world and provide sustainability for the generations to come.