How can your business align with the SDGs?

In September 2015 all 193 UN member states agreed a plan to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and justice and protect our planet. 

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

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. Your stakeholders will take notice and learn from you and your long term value will grow. 

“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
  •  Make sure they are not complicit in human rights abuses
  •  The effective abolition of child labour
  •  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
  •  Undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility
  •  Support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights
  •  Encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies
  •  Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges.


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. Evidence suggests there is 68% success if driven from CEO Level and 24% success if driven from middle management level. (source UN)

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:

1. Creating a shared understanding of goals

2. Ensuring goals are integrated into performance reviews & remuneration

3.  Communicating your company's sustainability ambitions publicly.


 STEP 5 - Report and communicate your contribution to the SDGs.


1. Integrated reporting (combining your financial, social and environmental impacts) will enable you to build transparency and accountability.

2. Regular, consistent and transparent reporting will nurture trust and connections with key stakeholders.

3. Communicate your successes through the implementation of a principles based report. 

What to include in your report: 

  • Your company's significant impacts. 
  • How your analysis has informed your identification of priority SDG targets. 
  • How stakeholder feedback informed your conclusions. 
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • 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. If you would like to start your own journey book an impact call with us today.