Incorporating global goals into your ESG ambitions
Initially, it may be difficult to see the relevance of many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for your business. On first inspection they may appear to be ‘a problem for others’ or of such scale that it would be difficult for any individual organisation to effectively move the dial.
One thing we have learned about successfully challenging any global issues however is that whilst the major initiatives may hold the headlines it is actually the combined effect of individual efforts on a macro scale that really brings about change. Social distancing, mask wearing and self-isolation to protect others during the Covid-19 pandemic is a recent and obvious example. Building SDGs into your business’s ESG (Environmental Social Environmental) policies and strategy is a good way to meet the United Nations’ call for action to ensure the positive action you take is aligned with addressing the major challenges faced by global society, namely ending poverty, protecting the planet and improving the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere. On a practical level this may see businesses incorporating all 17 Goals or matching specific goals and targets with their needs and those of their stakeholders. At Reconomy, our ‘triple bottom line’ approach is focused on delivering Social, Environmental and Business value, creating the opportunity to incorporate a wide range of SDGs to a greater or lesser extent.
- Social value including our RSVP programme – 1,2,3,5,6 and 10
- Environmental value including our REAP programme– 11,12,13,14,15,17
- Business value – 4,7,8,9,16
It’s perhaps also worth noting that many of the SDGs are interconnected. For example, climate change affects water, health, and biodiversity. As a result, focusing on specific SDGs can in fact create a far greater and more diverse impact than might be expected. In our case, we hope this approach will see us make a meaningful and direct contribution to the SDG agenda.
To support our customers, we have also developed a number of tools that help assess and improve their environmental performance. A good example is the Zero Waste Index which quantifies as a ratio an organisation’s various forms of waste management into a positive figure (associated with reuse and recycling processes) or a negative (landfill and incineration/energy from waste). Their performance is then displayed on an easy-to-understand tachometer and dashboard. The objective is to help them work towards the Zero Waste International Alliance’s target of more than 90% of all discarded resources being diverted from landfill and incineration.
To balance, it’s worth noting that whilst SDGs are useful for businesses looking to set goals and monitor progress in an aligned manner, they should not become of such importance that they restrain other positive work. The goals should be used as a guide and point of reference – not a rigid framework. As such, businesses would be well advised to only adopt SDGs in a way that they feel is positive and supportive. The common reality is that the Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) will apply and therefore those goals capable of having the greatest impact should be prioritised at the start.