May 15, 2019 3 min read

Solving problems like global hunger, poverty, and climate change requires us to work together! 

That’s why the United Nations established the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a call to action for countries, individuals, and businesses to address some of the greatest challenges of the 21st century.

The goals and their targets  range from ending poverty and hunger, to ensuring every person has access to clean drinking water and putting a stop to global warming - all by 2030. And although governments are their main audience, achieving the SDG targets requires buy-in from the business community too. Because let's be honest, businesses have the influence to make a big impact, quicker. 

The SDGs ask businesses to reevaluate and improve their operations, investments, and business practices to better align with SDG targets. Companies are not only encouraged to reduce their negative impact, but to actively work towards creating a safer, more equitable, and cleaner world. 

Sounds like a good idea, right?

Sustainable Development Goals icons in a grid pattern

Businesses Win When They Adopt the SDGs

The good news is that businesses have plenty to gain from the SDGs as well!

According to a recent study, individuals trust the ability of businesses to enact positive change in the world more than they trust governments. However, industry is often associated with waste production, greenhouse gas emissions, environmental damage, and the perpetuation of poverty and poor working conditions around the globe. 

That's exactly why businesses are uniquely capable of achieving the targets set out under the SDGs.

Integrating the Goals across their operations, businesses can reduce global emissions, eliminate excessive waste, and provide a living wage and safe working conditions for employees at a large scale. And beyond the moral or ethical responsibility to uphold the principals at their core, there are financial benefits for companies working towards SDG targets.

Adopting more efficient practices like utilizing renewable energy, earning ‘green building’ certifications, or reducing waste and emissions can all save a business money and contribute to at least one of the Goals. These efforts not only save on operations costs, but can also earn a company money by attracting new conscious consumers. It's a win-win!

Customers today are increasingly focused on purchasing products that are sustainably made. 

Some 86% of Americans now expect companies to align themselves with social and environmental causes. Nearly nine out of ten Americans said they would buy from a company because it supports a cause they believe in, and two-thirds would even be willing to pay more for a sustainable and responsible product (rising to 73% amongst millennials). 

Clearly, there's value in doing the right thing. 

Bar graph of consumer trust in business

How Businesses Can Take Charge

Aligning with the SDGs doesn’t have to be complicated. Designing solutions that work for a business depends on the industry, size of operation, and product or service being provided. But making small changes to a business’ operations can have a significant impact and inspire further action.

Instilling social and environmental values across an organization can have knock-on effects. Promoting green offices practices like eliminating single-use plastics or installing energy saving light bulbs can get employees thinking about how else the business can reduce or improve its impact. Then it becomes an eco-friendly domino effect. 

Businesses can also benefit by taking more direct action. Donating a portion of yearly revenues to local or international environmental organizations helps combat climate change, raises awareness, and demonstrates a company’s commitment to a cause.

A bigger goal may be to re-evaluate an entire supply-chain, in which the first step might be to express to suppliers a commitment to sustainability pushing them to adopt greener or more socially conscious practices. More extreme measures might be to ensure all suppliers are sustainably certified in some way like B Corporation, Fairtrade, or Sustainable Forest Initiative.

Meeting SDG Targets Requires Collaboration

In the end, everyone must take part to achieve the SDG targets by 2030. Governments must enact definitive policies that enforce the key tenets of the Goals, individuals must vote - both politically and with their wallets - and businesses must reassess the impact of their operations and strive to be a positive economic, social, and environmental influence.

Working together makes these targets easier to achieve and will produce the cleaner, safer and more equitable world in which we all wish to live.

Download the Going Green guide to find out what your business can do to be more sustainable and environmentally responsible.

We plant trees on 4 continents around the world. Want to choose where yours are planted?

by Joseph Coppolino

Organic Content Creator & Enviro-fabulist