The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a global call to action to achieve a more sustainable world for all, mobilising governments and the private sector to address the global challenges we are facing (climate change, economic inequality, poverty, sustainable consumption and environmental degradation). 17 Goals represent the action plan to transform our planet and society by 2030, creating a just and equal world for everyone.
Across the world, companies are declaring their support by embedding the SDGs into their business and sustainability strategies. Companies are realising it is the ethically and morally correct thing to do and that achieving the SDGs is good for business – Attaining the Global Goals could bring about approximately $12 trillion in market opportunities (Business and Sustainable Development Commission Better Business Better World report). By aligning business and sustainability strategies with the SDGs, companies can capture these opportunities in market share and shareholder value.
MAC Consulting recently helped one of our clients – a large JSE-listed chemical manufacturing company – develop a refreshed Sustainability Strategy aligned to the SDGs. We broadly followed a six step approach to develop their Sustainability Strategy, taking into consideration the risks towards and opportunities for value creation and their contribution to the SDGs:
Step 1: Analysis of Sustainability Strategy Drivers
We started the process by conducting a comprehensive analysis of the impact that the external market drivers have on the Sustainability Strategy of our client and further engaged with key internal and external stakeholders identified by the client. This included identifying sustainability best practices and understanding industry trends to ensure that the Sustainability Strategy would create value for the business and its stakeholders.
Step 2: Review Existing Initiatives
We reviewed the clients existing sustainability initiatives to unpack existing momentum and to identify where performance could be improved. This also involved mapping all existing initiatives to the SDGs in order to identify broad themes.
Step 3: Develop the Sustainability Vision and Purpose
Together with our client’s Sustainability Executive, and with input from the Group Exco, a Sustainability Vision and Purpose was developed that closely aligned to the organisation’s strategy and business model. An ambitious vision was chosen to reflect the scale of the progress required to ensure we achieve prosperous and sustainable world for all.
Step 4: Identify Strategic Objectives and Align to SDGs
The materiality concept was used to identify and prioritise SDGs and targets according to the company’s environmental, social and economic impact on the SDGs, and the potential risks and opportunities the SDGs pose the company and its stakeholders. In general, targets were aligned with the SDGs most relevant to the company’s core business.
5. Design Strategic Framework
The strategic framework underpinning the Sustainability Strategy was designed to ensure smooth socialisation and implementation across the organisation.
6. Finalise the Sustainability Strategy
The last step involved finalising the Sustainability Strategy and getting sign-off from Group Exco and the Board.
NOW UNTIL 2030 AND BEYOND
Forward thinking companies will want to understand how their business impacts the SDGs and what action they can take to achieve the 17 Goals by 2030. By focusing on the SDGs that are most relevant to their core business, companies can impactfully address challenges such as economic inclusion, diminishing natural resources, environmental degradation and the negative effects of climate change.
Not only will this ensure long-term business sustainability and increase shareholder value, but it will also align with stakeholder expectations, which will improve trust and strengthen their license to operate.