21 September 2020

The UN SDG’s: 4 opportunities for businesses

To mark the UN General Assembly International Day of Peace, on the 21 September, Isobar Good Director Kara Prosser shares her perspective on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and why business should care about them today, more than ever, and how Isobar’s tools can be used to bring about change.

Businesses are facing a social impact revolution. Their customers, employees and investors care more about their wider impact on society more than ever before. As part of this revolution, the UN SDG’s are in the spotlight as a guide for doing good - but they should be more than a checklist or a graphic on a website, slide or report. Businesses need to go beyond ‘ticking the box’ and engage with the complexity the SDG’s bring to drive purpose, innovation, and awareness.


Founded in 1945, the United Nations is a global organisation of 193 countries who strive to maintain worldwide peace and security. The UN Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for everyone. They highlight global challenges we face as society and lay out key targets to be achieved by 2030, across 17 areas that will transform our world. 


The goals are complex, interconnected and have multiple layers - with 169 sub targets and themes amongst them. Businesses need to embrace this complexity, engage with the sub targets, and smartly integrate these targets into their customer experience and business strategies. Here’s how and why - 


Aligned Strategy


Beyond baseline measurement, striving to achieve all 17 goals, or even 5 - 6 goals, is a huge undertaking and this is where we often see the SDG’s turn into a checklist that isn’t really achieving anything. Focussing on 1 - 3 goals that align with the business mission, strategy and product is a far more practical way to drive meaningful change and secure growth. Examples of smart alignment and engagement include: utility companies striving towards SDG no.7 Affordable and Clean Energy, beauty companies towards SDG no.5 Gender Equality and fashion towards SDG no.12 Responsible Consumption and Production.


Innovation & Ideation


Engaging with the SDG sub targets provides businesses with stimulus for real creativity and innovation. Seeing business challenges with a refreshed lens can spark new ways of thinking for new products and services. A focus on a particular area can also provide a platform for collaboration and diverse points of view. 


The ‘purpose’ trend has sparked many marketing industry initiatives aimed at achieving social impact, and positive step change has seen a coming together of professionals, brands and sectors who wouldn’t usually work together. This cross-pollination of knowledge and ideas brings new and different ways to tackle big social issues.


Demonstrating change 


We know that sustainable initiatives improve business performance, from an increase in customer sales to efficiencies in supply chains.The SDG’s are crucial to businesses as a way to communicate and demonstrate this impact to customers, shareholders and society. The SDG’s align to GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) reporting standards strengthening existing disclosure and can be an incredibly powerful way to communicate change, and growth.


Impact at scale


Creating change towards the SDG’s helps businesses contribute to a greater and common cause. If we’re all working towards the same 17 development areas, we’re likely to have a bigger impact - together. By driving innovation and efficiencies to benefit society and profit, businesses create solutions that are scalable and will ultimately have more impact.


To help kickstart our clients journeys into the social impact space we have created the Isobar Good toolkit to help simplify the complexity of the SDG goals but also to kickstart ideas for where businesses or brands could be headed. This is normally a tool exclusively for our clients, but today we’re proud to share the toolkit for you to use for free. If you are interested in learning more about Isobar Good, please contact Kara.


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