The SDGs, the New Cornerstone of the Sustainability Agenda

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Happy Birthday to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which turned two this month. Led by the UN Global Compact (UNGC), the SGDs are a set of 17 goals and 169 targets that propose a framework for government, business and society to collaborate on reducing inequality, eradicating poverty and protecting the environment.

On September 18th, to commemorate this 2nd anniversary, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) organized a concert for a Sustainable Planet at the Carnegie Hall. I was one of the lucky attendees. Their idea was to inspire us to action. The concert featured the world premiere of Ronen Shapira’s The Five Continents, a piano and synthesizer Concerto, written for pianist Revital Hachamoff. I was not particularly thrilled by this new piece of music to say the least (personal opinion), it brought to mind the scene of the band playing during the sinking of the Titanic. Let’s hope that this will not prevent the SGDs from saving the planet.

Three days later on September 21st, I attended the UNGC Leaders Summit whose main objective was to accelerate business action and partnerships to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris Climate Agreement. All of these happened during the week of the UN general assembly; with the attendance of President Trump and President Macron, along with many other heads and representatives of various countries. Needless to say, traffic in Midtown Manhattan was highly secured and restricted, outrageous even. So much for careful planning and preventive measures. Nevertheless, the UNGC Leaders Summit was informative and stimulating. These are the key takeaways from my day at the summit.

SDGs are here to stay – They will shape the sustainability agenda for the next 15 years. SDGs are only 2 years old: although somewhat complicated and sometimes confusing – especially for companies - they are rising above other sophisticated standards (GRI, ISO 26000) and they are here to stay. The UN is going to put in a lot of efforts to support them. New guidelines have been released during the conference to help decipher the SDGs and before long everyone will be talking about them. Hence do not have misgivings about the SDGs, you would have no other alternatives but to get into it.

Sustainability and CSR professionals need to become SDGs ambassadors. Soon companies and businesses will all ask about SDGs, some of them will start reporting on SDGs, and I can guarantee that they will have lots of questions. For the Sustainability and CSR professionals, it is a new opportunity to help and support the private sector in integrating the SDGs in order to bring value to them. Sustainability and CSR professionals need to fully embrace the SDGs whether they like it or not.

Supply Chains are the N°1 lever to disseminate SDGs. Almost all the speakers at the Leaders summit spoke about supply chains, value chains and suppliers as the preferred mechanism to disseminate SGDs throughout the globalized economy. The good news is that the large multi-national groups have been on this path for quite some time now, having implemented social, environmental, and ethical vigilance practices throughout their supply chains. With the SDGs, the multinationals and their purchasing departments have an opportunity to renew their engagement for responsible and transparent supply chains. Buyers will become the new heroes, the ones who will push the SDGs across value chains by communicating to their business partners on what they expect from them.

<p>Poster presenting the 17 SDGs</p>

Poster presenting the 17 SDGs

United Nations

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