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How can impact businesses succeed with UN SDG8?

The Agenda 2030 with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established in 2015, offers the framework to which all 193 United Nations (UN) member states have committed to fulfil.

Unlike previous development agendas that put an emphasis on economic growth, the SDGs are a universal framework that contains many potentially diverging policy goals in the economic, social, and environmental sphere, while some goals are thought to be mutually supportive.

In this blog we’re looking specifically at Sustainable Development Goal 8, and how impact businesses can succeed when implementing it into their models.

SDG 8 calls to create decent work opportunities and economic growth -  including paying a living wage, ensuring fair working conditions in your operations and supply chain, and providing professional development opportunities.

Reports from IOE and Deloitte discuss the progress on SDG 8 as slow and ‘sluggish’, making the path from vision to reality within the timeframe increasingly difficult. 

The primary reason for the unequal advancement in achieving SDG 8 falls down to the fact that government and businesses are struggling to translate the aspirations of the SDGs into realistic and concrete plans of action. 


SDG 8 is the priority goal for Profit Impact, and here we explore why this goal is so important and the 3 steps to how you can implement it.


Why is SDG 8 important for Impact Businesses?


Broadly speaking, impact businesses prioritise work that consciously, systematically and sustainably serves or attempts to solve a local or global community problem and need. 

Poverty will only be eradicated through secure and well-paid employment. As a result, it is critical to encourage full and productive employment as well as decent labour for all people across the world. This will result in the development of long-term, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth. 

The United Nations has reported that it anticipates a 4.2% decline of GDP per capita globally. We face the worst economic recession since the Great Depression in the 1930s.


Employee pay growth declined further in 2021 following its continuous decline from 2020 and has not recovered, it’s growth has been affected by lower pay for furloughed employees since March 2020 and has not shown signs of improving much. 


This scenario has been exacerbated by the outbreak of COVID-19. During the pandemic, it is estimated that 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy globally risk losing their livelihoods. Large numbers of workers have informal jobs which are often unskilled and labour intensive, require little money to set up, offer no protection to the workers and pay no tax. These jobs form part of the informal economy which is also called the grey economy.


The most recent unemployment rate - for August to October 2021 - was 4.2%, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is an increase of 0.4% over the previous three months and meant that around  1.4 million people were unemployed. 

 Driving decent work and economic growth opportunities is likely our biggest priority for 2022, and as impact businesses are designed to create a specific positive benefit for one of its stakeholders, it should also consider taking the same priority. 


What practical steps can you take to impact SDG 8?

STEP 1 - Review your current position against SDG 8 (inside out approach)


Reflecting on the SDG 8 targets and aligning your position against them will help to make a more driven approach to a real impact within your business.

SDG 8.5 aims to “achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value”, so you should look at your pay levels relating to the living wage and the national minimum wage.

Then, assess your development opportunities for your staff particularly the underserved groups such as the under 24-year olds  and identify any gender disparities regarding pay and development opportunities.


You should benchmark your professional development program against the B Corp standard, and calculate your attrition and employee satisfaction rates and benchmark against industry averages.


Review your approach to technological innovation either how it can support your business or protect your teams.


Ask yourself: Are you evaluating the social or environmental impact of your suppliers? Have you had any opportunities to contribute advocacy work regarding the need to drive decent economic and work growth in the past 2 years?


STEP 2 - Identify your SDG 8 risks concerning your existing organisation


Take your review of your current SDG 8 position and prepare a full risk assessment to understand what risks you face now and in the long term. 

As an impact business, this will be an easy task as it is expected you should have regular reporting and assessment of your impacts. 


Whether that is risk around the supply chain, staffing, or your ability to drive growth, it is worth spending time to understand which of these risks may impact your financial performance over the long term.


Map out what you can do to take your current approach to your teams and your supply chain and align them to sustainable practices. B Corporation provides an excellent SDG action manager to allow you to develop your performance in all aspects of SDG 8.


Calculate the financial impact of any changes to your current approach to your teams and supply chains. You will need to understand the commercial and operational impact of these changes to align your business model.


This will support your business planning stage in Step 3.


STEP 3 - Plan your decent work and economic growth using SDG 8 (outside-in approach)


Adapt your business planning approach to include looking at the economic and sustainability landscape to see where you can target your efforts to benefit society, the environment, and the economy. 


This flips traditional planning approaches on its head where you look first at your internal plans. Going outside provides you with a framework to consider all your stakeholders whilst driving long-term value into your business.

This is something that will allow your impact business to be even more effective, and you may find that you take this into consideration already.

Using SDG 8 will allow you to have a more intensely focused approach and impact on your decent work and economic growth efforts. 


Put trust in your business and yourself that doing the right thing will drive the right economic and decent work growth over the long term.

Where can you drive your economic and decent work growth?

Ask yourself:  Do you want to grow it locally, do you want to drive this growth to develop economies, or perhaps there is an area within the UK where it would benefit?  

Large local Authorities and Metropolitan boroughs unsurprisingly contain the highest numbers of most deprived areas. However, some smaller Authorities in the ‘Industrial Hinterlands’ and ‘Coastal and Countryside’ categories have high counts of deprivation relative to their size. For example, Wolverhampton and Sandwell in the Black Country and County Durham in the North East. Coastal areas, such as Cornwall, have significant deprivation. 

Could new offices, manufacturing or warehouses be placed in an area that would benefit from new job creation? 

If you have vacancies for roles that have been proven to work remotely, can you direct your job search to these areas?


Which areas of the community could benefit from decent growth right now?


This is a difficult time for school leavers and graduates. The Institute for Fiscal Studies reported that anyone entering the labour market this year, graduate or otherwise, is likely to suffer lower wages and employment levels “for some time to come”.


The IfS says that education-leavers who enter the workforce during a recession are significantly more likely to enter “non-graduate” jobs, will earn less in the first few years after graduation, and will still be less likely to be in work at all even several years after graduation. 


The 18-24 year olds are a well-educated and compassionate part of our community and could well have skills and innovative thinking that you could benefit from. 

Can you create decent work opportunities for those who have been made unemployed in struggling sectors such as high street retail, hospitality and tourism?


Can you identify businesses in under-served populations that could become part of your supply chain?


The right economic and decent work growth is crucial for our planet, employees, and communities as we move forward. Without the right economic growth, we cannot protect our planet or provide stable and consistent financial flows into the economy.


The majority of people living below the breadline in the UK today are in working households, including 70% of poor children; according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, “in-work poverty is the problem of our times”. For the wellbeing and happy future of our communities fair and stable remuneration and benefits are vital.


Two-thirds of employees in the UK are employed by SME businesses, with 50% of GDP is driven by them. The power of our SME community to drive decent economic and work growth to the UK is material.

We need to be mindful of what growth we are planning to make and how it links with other sustainable development goals.



Impact businesses are ideally already on their way to create positive impacts by taking a conscious and sustainable approach to the work they do. 

By implementing SDG 8 more into their structure, they can succeed in helping to solve local or global community problems and needs. 

You can work through the steps to ensure SDG 8 is embedded and thought out systematically or you can reach out for the extra guidance at Profit Impact. 

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.