04 Apr 2019

A Business Case for Sustainable Development

Posted in: Sustainable Development Goals

a business case for the Sustainable Development Goals

Twelve Trillion US dollars.

Yes, you read right.

T W E L V E   T R I L L I O N   U S   D O L L A R S.

That’s the amount that the business commission believes achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is worth by 2030, and they think that’s conservative. They also say the first movers are in the best position, with an estimated 5 to 15 year advantage.

So, clearly there’s a strong financial opportunity for business to capitalise on. But what are the other opportunities that make the argument for meeting the SDGs compelling?

What about future-proofing market share? Ensuring they embed the SDGs will mean that businesses will stay relevant to their customers (and therefore shareholders). In New Zealand, the recent Colmar Brunton Better Futures Report shows that kiwis are increasingly making purchasing decisions based on how sustainable they believe a product or an organisation to be. These metrics increase year on year.

However, whilst Kiwis want to support responsible businesses, they find it difficult to figure out who is doing the right thing. They struggle to name a sustainability leader and the percentage of people who find marketing by business on these topics confusing is increasing. So aligning with the goals is an easy (and visual) way to communicate with customers.

consumers continue to struggle with how businesses talk about their sustainability initiatives

This snapshot from Colmar Brunton’s Better Futures report shows that consumers continue to struggle with how businesses talk about their sustainability initiatives.

Adopting the SDGs is not just an opportunity to secure a place in tomorrow’s market, it’s also essential to retain the best talent. Deloitte’s Millennial Survey 2018 revealed a sharp disconnect between what millennials want from business, and what they believe business’ truly cares about (see table 1) . The report found that “the message is clear: young workers are eager for business leaders to be proactive about making a positive impact in society”. Now is the time for businesses to make meaningful commitments and act for a better society, and reap the benefits of engaged and talented workers.

Table 1 Top 3 millennial perceptions, source: Deloitte Millennial Survey 2018

What millennials think businesses should try to achieve

What millennials perceive as their organisations priorities

Generate jobs/employment opportunities (43%)

Generate profit (51%)

Improve society (e.g. educate, inform, promote health and well-being) (39%)

Produce and sell goods and services (34%)

Innovate (36%)

Drive efficiency, find quicker and better ways of doing things (33%)

Keep up with the Joneses (and don’t get left behind). According to KPMG, New Zealand experienced the second biggest increase globally in companies reporting on corporate responsibility (17% increase over 2015). So who has adopted the SDGs already? Microsoft have made a public commitment to sustainable development and Unilever have a Sustainable Living Plan which supports the UN SDGs in achieving three specific goals. Closer to home, the Auckland District Health Board have seen how directly many of the goals link with their strategy, and are working on a framework to broaden and align their current work with the goals. Waste disrupters 3R Group have put the SDGs at their core of their business strategy, and are working hard to progress against their key goals while realising the links between.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. As we look to the future, the purpose of business is being re-evaluated. The rise of B-Corps, organic and sustainable brands is evidence that we are moving towards a tipping point where shareholders are demanding that businesses measure success by more than financial profit.  The financial sector is also taking this very seriously, evident in Black Rock CEO Larry Fink’s letter to CEO’s which made the case that purpose and profit are inextricably linked. Businesses that fail to take into account their impacts risk likely increasing consumer backlash and noncompliance with tightening regulatory controls.

With the SDGs enabling better working conditions, increased wellbeing, sustainable consumption and a thriving living world, what is the argument for not addressing them? We can help you get on board and start working on your organisation’s SDGS. Get in touch with us to find out more. Stay tuned to our news (sign up to our newsletter and social channels Facebook , LinkedIn and Twitter ) for more information about how what you’re already doing can meet the goals.