17 goals, 169 targets, figures that should be in everyone’s mind for the next 13 years. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), all 17 aims to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Unlike its predecessors the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the SDGs are universal, more inclusive and comprehensive. The success of their implementation is pegged on all stakeholders, from governments, private sector, civil society, academia being actively involved.

Why SDGs matter to business:

The private sector is increasingly and more formally sought out as a key partner to advance the development agenda as the era of AID-based development has been changing due to recent global financial setbacks.

The SDGs call on companies everywhere to advance sustainable development through the investments they make, the solutions they develop, and the business practices they adopt. In doing so, the goals encourage companies to reduce their negative impacts while enhancing their positive contribution to the sustainable development agenda.

By developing and delivering solutions for the achievement of the SDGs, companies will discover new growth opportunities and lower their risk profiles. According to a recent report released by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, companies could unlock atleast $12 trillion in market opportunities by 2030 and create up to 380 million jobs by implementing the SDGs.

For business, the global goals covering a wide range of issues such as poverty, climate change, and health can be used as an overarching framework to shape, steer, communicate and report their strategies, goals and activities, allowing them to capitalize on a range of benefits.

The time for business to act is now, but how?

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the UN Global Compact and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) have developed the SDG Compass, a guide for companies on how they can align their strategies as well as measure and manage their contribution to the realization of the SDGs. The guide gives the following five simple steps for business to take action on the SDGs:

Understand the SDGs: As a first step, companies must familiarize themselves with the goals and what they mean for their business in terms of opportunities and responsibilities. It is important for companies wanting to advance the goals to understand the job starts with acting responsibly by incorporating the UN Global Compact’s Ten Principles in business strategies and operations and understanding that good practices and innovation in one area do not offset negative impacts in another.

2. Define priorities: The SDGs provide numerous opportunities for business to make a positive impact on the challenges the world faces. Defining a company’s priorities is therefore central in helping to focus action to maximize positive impacts and reduce or avoid negative impacts. This will entail conducting a thorough assessment on the current, potential, positive and negative impacts that your business activities have on the SDGs.

3. Set Goals: As guided by the above defined priorities, setting sustainability goals is important in driving performance and fostering shared purpose across the organization. Tied to this, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should be selected and serve as a basis to driving, monitoring and communicating progress.

4. Integration: Integration of sustainability goals will require active leadership by the Board and CEO especially where business value may not fully be understood. To be most effective, sustainability goals should be an integral part of existing financial, strategic and operational goals. To foster ownership there should be a shared understanding of how progress made in driving the SDGs also contributes to driving other business goals. Accountability can further be enhanced through integrating sustainability goals into performance reviews and remuneration schemes across the organization.

5. Report and Communicate: Corporate sustainability disclosures has gone mainstream across the world and in Kenya driven by stakeholders need for information on the company’s performance beyond the bottom line. Aligning your company’s reporting and communication with the SDGs means both discussing performance in the context of the expectations set by the SDGs, and also aligning disclosures with the language of the SDGs to ensure a common dialogue among stakeholders.

With less than 5000 days to meet the global goals, there is urgent need for greater ambition and action from the Kenyan business community. The UN Global Compact is your partner in this.

Written By

Judy Njino (Executive Director, Global Compact Kenya)