SDGs – the challenge of translating global issues into local business solutions

18 Jul 2019
Robert Perry, SBC Sustainable Leadership Manager

Today our Executive Director, Abbie Reynolds addressed the UN about NZ business leadership on the SDGs. Abbie spoke in support of New Zealand’s first progress report on the Sustainable Development Goals delivered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

As Abbie said, we continue to be impressed by how many of SBC’s members have adopted and are using the SDGs. It’s great to see members’ stories such as The Warehouse, Vector, Fonterra and Auckland Council featured in the report. Other leadership stories across our members were published in this Stuff series last year.

But that is no excuse to take the foot of the pedal… Four years after the launch of the SDGs, we still live in a world of complex challenges and uncertainty; a world where the SDGs’ vision of prosperity for people and planet is more relevant and urgent than ever before.

There is growing recognition that the transformation needed cannot be delivered by Government alone - business must play its part too. In short, the SDGs need business. But this dependence is mutual, as business cannot thrive in societies that are failing.

SDG Bingo - Moving beyond mapping

With roughly 4000 days left to deliver on the 17 SDGs and 169 targets – much work is yet to be done. While action and leadership abound, progress is tempered by the perennial game of ‘SDG bingo’ available in many a good sustainability report near you!

Don’t get me wrong, mapping your business against the SDGs is essential to identify which goals are most relevant and where the most impact can be made. But the critical next steps are challenging: matching your strategy, operations and decision making to those key SDGs, and then changing your activities to maximise positive impact.

If we look globally, a recent KPMG report found that 40% of global companies acknowledged the SDGs in their corporate reports. However only 1 in 5 reported on any of the 169 targets.

While 75% of companies that report on the SDGs discuss their impact on the goals, reporting can be unbalanced, with most companies reporting solely on their positive impacts.

These insights reinforce what are members are telling us. Moving beyond mapping is not easy! Not only is difficult to navigate the 17 goals and 169 targets but making them meaningful to staff, customers or suppliers is equally challenging. Check out Christchurch Airport’s innovative approach (PDF) to overcoming that challenge.

Members are also looking at how best to measure their impact and report their contribution at a national level - at a time when national priorities are still not yet clear.

Next Steps

We are now exploring how we can help members go further, faster, and with confidence on the SDGs. So let us know what you think we should focus on.

We are also looking for stories that show our members are moving beyond mapping.  If this sounds like you, get in touch - we’d love to share your story.

And if you’re wondering how to get started, stay tuned. SBC will be hosting a brilliant basics webinar on 12 November.