In the wake of the public health pandemic of COVID-19, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are ever more important. Despite 2019 bringing a close to the first phase of the 2030 agenda, many businesses have fallen behind in taking stock of the underlying targets of the SDGs. Organisations need to move away from an air-brush approach to the SDGs, by unpacking the targets within the goals to formulate their strategy.

The current pandemic should propel, rather than deter commitment and progress on the SDGs. Businesses have an opportunity to identify their strengths, prioritise the SDGs, develop organisation-specific definitions to the targets; all under clearly articulated ambitions and supporting metrics.

This webinar presented a methodological approach towards seamlessly integrating SDG targets into wider business strategy, through developing a data-driven approach for organisations committed to making an impact.

What we learnt: 
  • The gap in the progress made on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is going to be exasperated by the global health pandemic of COVID-19. In its inverse, the pandemic will also maximise the necessity for the SDGs.
  • It is imperative that the private sector ramps up the speed of their contribution towards the progress of the SDGs to achieve the targets by 2030.
  • In terms of their contribution and reporting on SDG progress, companies usually fall into one of three categories:
    1. Companies that have aligned their values and core operations to the SDGs.
    2. Companies that have strategic partnerships and alliances that allow them to contribute towards the SDGs.
    3. Companies that take an airbrush approach to the SDGs through basic reporting on their annual report, without necessarily looking at the breakdown of the SDGs.
  • It is vital for an organisation to identify their SDG goal and indicator alignment, in order to be strategic about what is to be measured, who should be measuring it and how it will be tracked. This is especially pertinent if an organisation aligns with multiple goals and indicators.
  • The three most important elements for the private sector to take heed of when aligning with the SDGs are:
    1. Leadership: Making sure there is management buy-in and that the language for progressing the goals comes from top-down.
    2. Collaboration: Partnerships should be made strategically so that it aligns with or progresses the businesses’ identified SDG indicators.
    3. Transparency: Public disclosure should be discussed and revaluated annually so that the level of reporting is always being elevated.
  • Departmental silos are an impediment to the successful alignment of the SDGs across business operations. It is only through the involvement of all departments and functions in an organisation that real collaboration takes place. Specific “language” needs to be used with each department of an organisation. For instance, sustainability experts should work closely with financial and investment officers to think about how to raise capital through the lenses of the SDGS.  
  • There is immense value in an organisation reporting effectively, including being accountable and transparent to their stakeholders. Reporting on SDG progress also allows the United Nations to have a better picture on how much contribution the private sector is making.
  • For over half of the SDGs’ indicators, data is not regularly collected by most of the countries that signed onto its progress. One of the key reasons for this is a lack of an established methodology to measure them. By noting how an organisation can track their impact on the progress of the goals, the private sector can contribute towards this data vacuum.