Companies & Sustainable Development Goals

Companies and Sustainable Development Goals

Although governments are considered the main responsible for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals - SDGs, companies, and civil society organizations also share this task.

Overview

After more than two years of public consultations, interactions with the private sector and civil society and negotiations between member countries, in 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is expected to set the course of development programs worldwide over the next 15 years.

Said document seeks to stimulate action around what some authors have begun to call the five P's of Sustainable Development: people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnerships. For this reason, it is considered an action plan for people, the planet, and prosperity, which also intends to strengthen universal peace and access to justice, and whose implementation requires global alliances.

Likewise, the central element of the 2030 Agenda is the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which encompass 169 goals in the economic, social and environmental dimensions, covering topics from the end of poverty and zero hunger, to peace, justice and strengthening of institutions, through health and well-being, quality education, affordable and clean energy, climate action, among others.

Although governments are considered the main responsible for the implementation of the SDGs, companies and civil society organizations also share this task. In the particular case of companies, they can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs through their CSR actions, although ideally, they should do so from their core business activities, aligning their strategies to the relevant SDGs, to that through responsible business models contribute to sustainable development.

Sustainable Development Goals

As mentioned above, the agenda created by the United Nations is made up of 17 goals, of which, on this occasion, we would like to focus on numbers 3,  4, 5 ,10

3-SDGs: Good Health and Well-Being

Although important progress has been made in recent decades in increasing life expectancy and reducing infant and maternal mortality, more initiatives and projects are still needed to completely eradicate different issues related to health and well-being.

Why is The UN Health and Well-Being Goal so Important?

Approximately 95% of deaths of children under five are concentrated in Africa, in countries such as Somalia, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia; and in Asia, where figures from China, India, and Pakistan stand out.

To decrease the number of premature deaths, progress is needed in access to clean water and sanitation (SDG 6), which contributes to reducing lethal and infectious diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, and decreases the spread of HIV. Affordable, quality health care, improved nutrition, and increased vaccine availability will also be critical to curbing both infant and maternal mortality.

4-SDGs: Quality Education

Education is a true transformative axis and promoting education for all is essential for the achievement of the other SDGs. Although significant progress has been made in recent years about school enrollment rates, much remains to be done.

Some 758 million adults — about 15% of the total adult population — cannot read this text. According to the report, Education transforms lives, published by UNESCO in 2017, this is the real number of adults who cannot read or write, and two-thirds are women. This report also sheds light on child and youth illiteracy: 263 million children and young people are not in school, and this reality has a direct impact on the increase in discrimination and social tensions.

Accessing quality education is the perfect starting point to get out of the cycle of poverty and empowers people to lead a more sustainable and healthy life. Not to mention, furthermore, that education contributes to creating more peaceful and tolerant societies.

For all these reasons, achieving inclusive, equitable, and quality education, and promoting learning opportunities for everyone and throughout life, is the fourth of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Why is This Goal so Important?

5-SDGs: Gender Equality

No country in the world has achieved equality between men and women. We must further increase efforts to ensure that all people have the same opportunities and rights, and thus we will achieve a more peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world.

The inequalities between men and women are manifested in every one of the dimensions of our life. According to the UN report, ''Making promises come true: Gender equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development'' (2018), women are the first to go hungry when households do not have enough food. They are also the ones that charge less: the salary gap stands at 23% worldwide. As for the public sphere, they only occupy 23.7% of political positions.

Also, according to this report, one in five women and girls has suffered physical or sexual violence from their partner or family in the last 12 months. There are still 49 countries that do not provide for the protection of women from violence in their legislation , 45 lack legislation that specifically addresses sexual harassment

Why is This Goal so Important?

10-SDGs: Reduced Inequalities

More than 700 million workers live in poverty around the world (ILO, 2017), while gender disparities are increasingly exacerbated. To achieve sustainable economic development, societies must create the necessary conditions for people to access quality jobs, stimulating the economy without harming the environment.

What Leaders Need to Do to Boost SDGs in Companies?

In the specific case of companies, in these four years, we have seen how companies from different sectors have integrated these areas into their strategies, prioritizing those SDGs in which each one can contribute more directly.

How Can Companies Contribute to The 3 SDGs: Health and Well-being?

  • Occupational health and safety system at work, to comply with legislation and reduce accidents and occupational diseases.
  • Promote a preventive culture of health.
  • Regular training on occupational health and safety for all employees and throughout the supply chain.
  • Special precautions and actions regarding occupational health and safety for pregnant women, employees with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups.
  • Adequate safety and hygiene measures in the products and services of the company, so that the health of customers, employees, and other stakeholders is not compromised.
  • Promote a healthy lifestyle among employees and the value chain, for example, implementing an adequate diet in the organization's dining room or creating sports facilities accessible to all.
  • Promote habits against a sedentary lifestyle, such as access to offices by bicycle or other physical and sports activities.
  • Reduce the environmental impact on the company's operations and the use of dangerous chemical products, to avoid contaminating the air, water, and soil.

How Can Companies Contribute to The 4 SDGs: Quality Education?

  • Offering training and continuous learning opportunities for employees to improve their skills.
  • Training plan in the company on sustainability in topics such as human rights, transparency, sustainable labor guidelines, etc.
  • Encouraging and providing time for employees to conduct volunteer activities related to education.
  • Hiring internship students to train them and improve their technical knowledge.
  • Early childhood development services for children of employees in communities with limited educational opportunities.

How Can Companies Contribute to The 5 SDGs: Gender Equality?

  • Guarantee that all company policies include the gender dimension and promote equality and integration from the business culture.
  • Training plan for all levels of the company on gender, including topics such as human rights and non-discrimination, with special attention to human resources departments.
  • Set business-level goals and outcomes for gender equality and measure and disseminate progress.
  • Salary policies that ensure equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender.
  • Employment recruitment and protection system to integrate the gender dimension and combat possible discrimination in the recruitment, promotion, and appointment of senior officials and members of the board of directors.
  • Family reconciliation, for both women and men, and access to nurseries.
  • Establish a zero-tolerance policy towards any form of violence in the workplace that includes verbal and physical abuse.
  • Respect the dignity of women and girls in all the company's products and services, including marketing actions.
  • Train providers on gender equality.

How Can Companies Contribute to The 10 SDGs: Reduced Inequalities?

  • Decent working conditions and wages for employees and throughout the supply chain, especially to suppliers operating in developing countries and migrant workers.
  • Adapt the business strategy in the production, distribution, and marketing of products and services to make them more affordable.
  • Establish internal transparency processes to avoid corruption and tax evasion practices, which directly impact inequality.
  • Empower skills and train lower-paid workers so that they can develop and advance professionally.
  • Boost the social economy where the company operates, especially in developing countries, using local labor and suppliers, protecting the environment and supporting local companies.
  • Adopt equality policies within the company, to provide equal employment opportunities to all workers and promote these practices in the supply chain.
  • Offer job opportunities to young people from unfavorable backgrounds, promoting social mobility and diversity in the company.
  • Redistribute wages consistently across the organization, providing decent and proportionate wages to all workers and members.

 

Conclusion

Undoubtedly, the entry into force of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs presents challenges for the business sector for which they will have to prepare, but there will also be opportunities for those companies that understand that the production, consumption and investment models that previously worked are changing for those increasingly responsible and sustainable.