The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 goals provide a shared purpose and a set of agreed positive outcomes to address the world’s most urgent sustainability challenges and create a better future for all. They address issues such as poverty reduction, education, gender equality, water, sustainable energy, inequalities and good corporate governance.
Achieving the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) requires significant capital flows. It is estimated that a total investment of US $90 trillion is needed by 2030 in order to achieve the SDGs. Mobilizing this capital will require businesses to report on their SDG-related activities in a way that enables investors to make better decisions that can lead to sustainable development.
Putting purpose at the heart of the business unlocks the value of the symbiotic relationship between ‘doing good’ and ‘doing right.’ Having only a ‘doing good’ agenda focuses on the symptoms, not the cause. The market drivers include the rising expectations of connected, younger consumers that want brands to do right, employees that prefer to work for companies that share their values, and the growing need for business to address crises such as climate change that compromise all of our future.
Why an action plan for sustainability?
The business case for sustainable development is already strong. It opens up new opportunities and big efficiency gains, it drives innovation and it enhances reputations.
With a reputation for sustainability, companies attract and retain employees, consumers, B2B customers, investors and they secure their future existence. That’s why sustainable companies around the globe are thriving and delivering attractive returns to shareholders.
Many of the largest companies didn’t start with the business case, they started with deciding the purpose for the change towards sustainability. Without a sense of purpose, no company -- public or private -- can achieve its full potential. It will ultimately lose the license to operate from key stakeholders. It will succumb to short-term pressures to distribute earnings, and sacrifice investments in employee development, innovation and capital expenditures that are necessary for long-term growth.
SDG 13 – Climate Change
One of top three goals amongst the 1,141 corporations in PwC’s SDG Challenge Survey is climate change (SDG 13). Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG8) and Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG12) are the other two.
The UN’s definition of SDG 13 is: taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Climate change is now affecting every country on every continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives, costing people, communities and countries dearly today and even more tomorrow.
From a macro perspective, the challenge and quest for corporations and governments are to find ways to decarbonise the economy. An example of such actions is the World Bank who under its Coal Mine Closure Program is not allowing investments in carbo-intensive business. In the future, GDP (gross domestic product) could eventually become obsolete and sustainability measures will take its place.
The purpose of an action plan is to shed light on the need to elevate your organizations mission to include a purpose of doing good by connecting to sustainability goals.
Things to take into account when developing your action plan are to create business buy-in from all stakeholders, focus only on goals where you have the highest impact, and make sure to breakdown the SDG goals into concrete targets. Having an internal agenda is the foundation and starting point. However, it won’t answer questions like: What is it your company doing to help people? What is the difference you are seeking to make in the lives of your customers and consumers? Why is it good to be part of what you do? How do you define this in a memorable and compelling way?
Answers to the above questions will set the external strategy, which communicates what your purpose is as a sustainable business. Why does your company exist other than making money? Consumers of the future will have different key forces that define them, including how they shop, eat, stay healthy and move. It's easy to assume that technology will be the primary driving force behind change. But it's not about what technology or advanced features consumers will expect for a seamless experience. The focal lens will be on a brand’s purpose, perceived trust and transparency. Consumers will be more particular about whom they want to bank with, shop from, travel with and so forth. They will choose companies based on their sustainable footprint and what good they’re doing in the world.
It starts with the leadership
Top management commitment is the most significant factor in driving corporate sustainability. Employees are much more likely to exhibit sustainable behaviour if there is top management or perceived corporate commitment. It is found to be even more significant a factor than personal values or individual environmental interests. Not only are actions from top management important, but the language of sustainability is also crucial. Communications should come from top-managers and use positive and motivating vocabulary to rally the workforce into making more sustainable choices towards a goal that is truly meaningful.
Environmental leadership starts with incremental changes in the workplace and develops into a corporate culture with sustainability at its core. And this must be led by top-managers. The workplace is a crucial frontier on the journey to calling sexist language and behavior (SDG 5) or alleviating climate change (SDG 13) and reducing our impact on the planet. Therefore, it is of paramount importance for top-management to get ahead of the competition and make bold commitments. It is a known fact that once there is commitment from the top, the rest will follow.
Your organisation’s purpose must be applied through all departments, unlocking value across the whole company. How does the purpose for sustainability change the suppliers you work with? How can it shape recruitment? How can it inform new service development and innovation? When put to work this way, purpose becomes a filter that mitigates risk of consumer or media activism against your brand – because it’s authentically integrated. It will also galvanize every department to think and innovate in ways that demonstrate the integrity of your intent. Purpose for sustainability cannot be a passive sentence written on a page or a statement painted on a wall. It must be an active verb, a living and breathing dynamic inside your company that delivers both business value and positive impact.
Cause and effect
How do you know if your organization’s risk and opportunities, including the positive and negative impacts, are heading towards your prioritized SDG goals? What if you can support your statements about SDG contributions with facts and evidence? Highlight key achievements and failures and report on performance against the company’s SDG targets?
An example of how SDG 3 ‘Good Health and Well-being’ and SDG 12 ‘Responsible Production and Consumption’ are closely connected can be taken from the medical drug industry. A large part of the world's medicines are manufactured in India, which produces cheaper tablets. Purification from the factories is very poor and enormously high levels of drug residues are released into the environment with severe consequences. The release of antibiotics creates resistant bacteria which can mutate and spread to humans. This becomes the problem not just for Indians - but the whole world.
Amidst the coronavirus pandemic the world is now currently battling to protect the health and well-being of the world’s citizens, ineffective antibiotic treatments may be the next major threat -- if not already -- to humanity.
How do you know the cause-and-effect relationships between pursuing sustainability and business operations and performance? What if capturing events and activities from various data sources, AI and machine learning capabilities combined with SDG metrics could help your business discover opportunities for responsible business and benefit the bottom line? Furthermore, what about eliminating the risk of companies and governments not discovering their own wrongdoings and misconducts by removing the human factor?
People are reluctant to point out wrongdoings because reporting is a violation in itself, amidst processes and rules they are unlikely to see patterns outside given constraints. Changing these processes is costly and time consuming. Compared to algorithms, people are negligent. With Teradata Vantage, we can help automate the capturing of events and activities associated with possible misconducts & breaches, develop an alarm framework for automated triggers and assist alarm triggering system with analytics.
Teradata’s mission is ‘We transform how businesses work and people live through the power of data.’ Teradata is uniquely positioned to help organizations design for the future. With data and analytics, we give you insights and answers enabling your business to meet your SDG Goals.
Our consulting methodology begins with understanding our customers’ strive to do right while making a profit. We have a vision for the future of your industry and a clear understanding of the choices that need to be made to support your specific challenges. We can review your current analytical capabilities across a range of dimensions, including architecture, technology, tools, people and process.