The creation process of the Sustainable Development Goals was more inclusive than ever. Involving government agencies, businesses, civil society organisations and so on, the Sustainable Development Goals define a holistic approach towards development and must thus, themselves, be approached in the same way. A holistic approach towards development not only means that we tackle multidimensional issues on all ends of the spectrum, but that we also tackle it in a multi-sectoral fashion. Involving the private-sector in the attainment of the SDGs is essential for long-term and measurable impact, yet this venture is also mutually advantageous for businesses as well.
It is no longer enough for businesses and investors to concern themselves with profit while natural disasters as well as social and economic unrest largely threaten long-term prosperity. These threats, however, also present an opportunity. Businesses who understand that realize that a prosperous business in today’s world not only takes care of profits, but of society and the planet at large. Mega-trends such as population growth, scarcity of resources and global health risks have created new markets. Meanwhile, consumer behavior show patterns of more informed shopping, i.e, consumers mostly opt for goods and services that, one, suffice them and, two, are actually good or, at least, not harmful for the rest of the world and our planet. Implying that businesses which actually involve themselves in sustainable development, including social entrepreneurs, have a comparative advantage against those which do not.
Businesses can build and re-build their management strategy towards Shared Value, to find opportunities in social problems and advance social good. This, in turn, separates them from the market and magnifies their success. Businesses have the power of scale to achieve monumental change in today’s increasingly complex problems. This can be done by re- conceiving products and markets, redefining productivity, and/or by enabling local cluster development. For example, Walmart saved $200M in distribution costs while growing the quantities being shipped by reducing packaging and improving delivery logistics. To reach customers without health access in rural India, Novartis offers a portfolio of affordable and appropriate medicines tailored to common regional health issues, which is increasing regional sales and doctor visits. While Chevron is building prosperity in the region and improving its operating environment through its “Partner Initiatives in the Niger Delta” which uses a data-driven approach to identify new market opportunities and local solutions to unemployment in the region.
Nonetheless, adopting the global goals will eventually lead to more peaceful societies, paving the way for new and stable markets. Businesses, thus, are direct stakeholders in the 2030 agenda, and are an essential actor able to provide long-term solutions and impact. To achieve the SDGs, government agencies, international organizations and CSOs must work on collaborating with businesses. While the results the 2030 agenda promise us are enough incentives for the private-sector to hop on the bandwagon!