5 minutes

How can your business align with the SDGs?

In September 2015, all 193 UN member states gathered to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a call to action and plan to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and justice and protect our planet. 

At the heart of the agenda is these 17 global goals which provide a powerful vision to improve our world. Businesses are called to join governments, civil society, the United Nations and communities in aligning to the SDGs. The goals are supported by 169 targets which we can align with, these goals are inherently and deeply connected. 

The success of the goals are heavily reliant on action and collaboration, leveraging of resources, creativity and innovation. 

Businesses cannot succeed if societies fail and natural resources are depleted and it's the role of business to demonstrate resilience to corruption and good institutional governance. 

We should recognise that achieving the Global SDGs lays down the foundation for the successes of the future and to this end your business should be working responsibly to contribute to the 2030 agenda.

For smaller organisations this can feel overwhelming, what difference can your business really make?

Advocacy and high standards in your organisation and supply chain will drive improvements outside of your business, with your stakeholders will taking notice and learning from you and your long term value growing.

“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”
John F. Kennedy

‍The United Nations have set out a 5 point plan to embed the SDGs into your organisation regardless of size and sector.

Step 1 - Understand the goals and the principles underpinning the SDGs which we’ve outlined here:

Elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour, including the effective abolition of child labour and make sure they are not complicit in human rights abuses.

Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of  the right to collective bargaining. Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms including extortion and bribery.


The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation and support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights.

Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges by undertaking initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility. They should also encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies. 

There are a number of tools and approaches you can adopt to support you to integrate these principles into your business. These include supply chain screening, supplier codes of conduct, internal code of ethics and a robust whistleblower policy. 

The most powerful way to embed this approach of doing the right is through culture. If words and actions throughout the business reflect your wish to operate responsibly and ethically this will drive the right behaviours throughout.

Step 2 - Prioritising your actions to maximise impact:

Start with a holistic assessment of your current positive and negative impacts across operations, value chains and communities.

Map your organisational skills and opportunities to highlight positive impact now and into the future. Identify your priority goals and consider how to minimise any negative impact you have on people and the environment. 

You may well uncover unexpected opportunities, innovation & positive impacts - consider how to maximise these positive impacts.

Consider the goals you can support through your operations, services and investments and this will help you to identify strategic opportunities for future success. Now you should have a clear set of priorities.

Remember that one goal is not more important than the other. Your opportunities, impacts and goal connections are unique to your business.

Step 3 - Set ambitious targets:

Once priorities are defined and linked to goals, set specific, measurable and time bound targets. These targets should be designed to incentivise, motivate and communicate performance.

Set the level of ambition of your company against the global goals based on industry, geographical location and size. Consider the opportunities and perspectives to benefit your business and the world.

Consider an outside-in approach where you take your current business performance and compare them to global and society needs. Goals should be based on scientific and external data.

Step 4 - Embed the SDGs into your core business:

Active leadership from the CEO & Board of Directors is essential, with evidence suggesting that there is a 68% success if driven from CEO Level, and only a 24% success if driven from middle management level

Build time and knowhow capacity in your managers and professionals at every level. There needs to be support and ownership across corporate functions including R&D, business development, supply management, operations & human resources are key.

Anchoring your sustainability goals can be effectively achieved by:

  • Creating a shared understanding of goals
  • Ensuring goals are integrated into performance reviews & remuneration
  • Communicating your company's sustainability ambitions publicly.

Step 5 - Report and communicate your contribution to the SDGs:

Develop integrated reporting into your business, combining your financial, social and environmental impacts to build transparency and accountability. This will also require regular consistent reporting that will nurture trust and connections with key stakeholders.

Most importantly, when this is done you must communicate your successes through the implementation of a principles based report, and acknowledge the areas where you might be failing.

What to include in your report: 

1. Your company's significant impacts.

2. How your analysis has informed your identification of priority SDG targets.

3. How stakeholder feedback informed your conclusions. 

4. Your strategy, including objectives (goals) and measurement (indicators) contributing to the priority SDG Targets. Recognise that positive contribution can result from both tackling risks and providing beneficial products or services. This may include a description of relevant company policies, systems and processes, including your engagement with stakeholders. 

5. Any instances where your company has caused or contributed to negative impacts and actions you’ve taken to remedy it. Indicators and data that demonstrate how your company is progressing including any setbacks. 

6. Future plans for achieving your goals.


There is a role for every business, regardless of its size, sector or geography, to drive the future we all want to see. 

There are a number of important benefits of aligning to the Sustainable Development Goals for your business such as:

  • Consumers are looking to place their money with responsible and ethical businesses 
  • Employees want to work at places that align with their values
  • Investors and banks need to report how their funds are performing for ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) so they will want to know how you are performing with your ESG.
  • You will be enhancing your brand reputation and managing your risk in this area.

Profit Impact is here to help ease this process and guide you through your approach. You can book a call with Sarah today!


Written by:
Sarah Whale, FCCA
Sarah is the founder of Profit Impact, which guides businesses to measure and grwo long-term positive social, environmental and financial impacts. Sarah has over 20 years experience as a senior financial professional as well as a qualified in Cambridge Institute Sustainability Leadership and B Corp Leader.