No doubt, you’ve heard of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the 17 ambitious targets to end poverty, protect the planet, and usher society into a peaceful and prosperous future. The goals, such as SDG2 “Zero Hunger” and SDG4 “Quality Education” remind us that while we live in a time of abundance, resources and privileges are not evenly distributed across global society.
We’re a resilient species with 7.6 billion members and counting. For humanity to thrive, we must crack the code on fundamental issues like healthcare, education, energy, and infrastructure. The SDGs show us the path forward… the question is, how will we respond?
The Role of Business
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) stresses the importance of the private sector partnering with other companies, governments, and citizens to advance the SDGs. Undoubtedly, business plays a vital role in advancing the goals. Those that step up to the plate enhance their reputation while strengthening society, on which their business depends.
In 2017, we published a blog about early-adopters, some of which re-structured their corporate sustainability programs to align with the SDGs. For example, beverage company SABMiller developed a new sustainability framework based on the SDGs and reported how specific corporate programs contributed to the goals. And, Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan marshalled brands to improve global health & hygiene, an approach expressly linked to SDG3, “Good Health and Well Being” and SDG6, “Clean Water and Sanitation”.
It’s About Quality Not Quantity
Next month marks three years since the SGDs were released. Currently, 100 of the world’s largest companies reference SDGs in corporate reporting. Many businesses include an SDG index in their annual CSR reports, acknowledging the overlap between on-going programs and the goals. While using the SDGs as an indexing structure ticks a box for corporate communications, it does little to solve the complex problems facing humanity. According to the UN’s 2018 SDG Report, billions of people still lack access to basic sanitation services, electricity, and food. Companies can accelerate progress with deeper, more focused, and meaningful action on the SDGs.
We See You Microsoft
We admire Microsoft’s approach to the SDGs and suggest other companies employ some of these successful strategies. Here’s what’s working for us:
- Microsoft sponsored research to confirm how the IT industry can help. The #SystemTransformation Report affirms the importance of digital solutions, which have up to 23 times higher diffusion speed and reach than traditional approaches.
- The company produced a whitepaper on how its programs advance the SDGs. It features examples like Microsoft Educator which makes educational content, including the “World’s Largest Lesson”, accessible through technology.
- Microsoft’s SDG site and interactive web content use compelling case studies, videos, and impact metrics to inform customers. The company also cross references the SDGs in its annual CSR report.
If your business is making meaningful progress on the SDGs, we encourage you to share your efforts. We can help develop a strong narrative, engaging media, and a multi-channel approach to inspire your target audience.
 KPMG. 2018. Analysis of SDG Reporting in Top 250 Global Companies.