Beyond Reports: Enabling Business Contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals
01 April 2016

​The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent the next steps that humanity has set for itself towards ensuring a healthy, fulfilling life for all, on a healthy planet. Calling for ending poverty, gender equality, safeguarding our environment and climate, strong institutions, education for all, or sustainable consumption and production, these new global goals will require all of us to take action for a better world.

Governments around the world have committed themselves to achieving these goals before 2030. And for the first time, they are not alone: civil society and the private sector are called to play a major role. Here we demonstrate how and why your organization needs to incorporate the SDGs into strategic decision making and sustainability reporting practices.

The time to act is now
GRI is enabling business contribution to the SDGs, helping organizations align their business practices and sustainability reporting to the following global goals (among others):

  • SDG 5: Gender equality
  • SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth
  • SDD 12: Sustainable consumption and production
  • SDG 13: Climate action
  • SDG 17: Partnerships for the goals
 
Target 6 under Goal 12 explicitly encourages companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycles. Why is sustainable consumption and production so important?

In 1950, the world was using less than 10 billion tons of natural resources (biomass, fossil fuels, ores, minerals and water). By 2010, this figure increased to over 70 billion tons. By 2050, when the global population is estimated to reach 9.6 billion, the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles!
 
The UN catalyzed global action on water-related issues last week during UN World Water Day. According to UN Water, almost half of the world’s workers (1.5 billion people) work in water-related sectors, and nearly all jobs depend on water. Agriculture is the biggest user of water worldwide, and irrigation now claims almost 70% of all freshwater appropriated for human use. A fair and sustainable balance? Exacerbating the issue of water shortage even further, man is polluting water faster than nature can recycle and purify water in rivers and lakes.

According to the UN, on the energy front, despite technological advances that have promoted energy efficiency gains, energy use in OECD countries will continue to grow another 35% by 2020. Commercial and residential energy use is the second most rapidly growing area of global energy use after transport, and in 2013, just one-fifth of the world’s final energy consumption was from renewables.

Why should businesses care about sustainable consumption and production?
Businesses have the power to spearhead changes in sustainable consumption and production. In order to meet Target 12 of the SDGs, we need to engage in efficient management of our shared natural resources. It is paramount that businesses employ intensive recycling and waste reduction practices to achieve this.

Not only will businesses be playing a major role in propelling us towards a more sustainable planet, those that incorporate resource efficiency and sustainable production can enjoy the following key benefits:
  • Stronger financial performance
  • Meet increased consumer demand and sales growth
  • Enjoy new and positive returns on investments
  • See reduced use, waste and dependency on natural resources.
 
3 top tips for maximizing your contributions to the SDGs
What can your organization do to kick start its own sustainable development trajectory in light of the SDGs? We’ve come up with a few tips:

1. Check out the SDG Compass, a hands-on guide developed by GRI, UN Global Compact and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development to help you align your strategies with the SDGs and measure and manage your contributions.

2. Exchange cutting edge sustainability reporting knowledge at the GRI Global Conference, taking place in Amsterdam, the Netherlands from 18-20 May. Learn how you can align your reporting to the SDGs and check out the GRI Conference Master Class:Chain Reaction: Better value for business through supply chain and reporting. Early Bird Registration closes 15 April.

3. Take a look at GRI’s unique SDG Mapping Service which allows your organization to confirm its links between the GRI Disclosures and the SDGs. By making sustainability data more traceable and useable and the link to the SDGs more clear, the SDG Mapping Service can give your internal and external stakeholders more faith in your reporting, thereby increasing trust.
 
And don’t forget, you can track the world’s commitments to sustainability reporting by companies and policies around the world through the UN SDG Target 12.6 Live Tracker, developed by GRI in collaboration with TCS.