Global Sustainability and Your Organisation: Everything You Need to Know About the SDGs
ESG, CSR, GRI…
Aren’t there already enough sustainability acronyms?
Truth being told - yes, there are already too many acronyms… but bear with me, because this one might be the most important of them all..
SDGs - which are the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals
These goals are the core of all global sustainability efforts and should be top of mind for every sustainability manager or policy maker.
Whether you’re looking to understand the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals or want to start reporting on them…
You’re in the right place.
In this article we are going to cover everything you need to know about the Sustainable Development Goals so you and your organisation can start reporting on them in your sustainability disclosures.
Learning about the Sustainable Development Goals is key to future-proofing your organisation and making sure that you will be ahead of any upcoming sustainability reporting regulations.
So, What Are the Sustainable Development Goals?
The Sustainable Development Goals are a set of goals created by the United Nations (UN) to work towards a sustainable future for the world.
There are 17 goals laid out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, that take a holistic approach to global sustainability. These 17 goals are as follows:
While it may look like a lot, the combination of these goals boils down to be pretty clear.
The UN recognises that the sustainability issues that our planet currently faces are intertwined and that ending poverty, for example, must go hand in hand with tackling issues like climate change. Each of these goals combines to create “a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”, according to the UN’s website.
All United Nations Member States have adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and therefore, these SDGs provide a global guide towards sustainability for more than 150 world leaders.
This includes New Zealand, which has committed to contributing to the achievement of these goals through both “domestic action and international leadership” and most recently, declaring a climate emergency.
A Brief History
Originally, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were eight targets that the world committed to reaching by 2015. These goals focused on reducing poverty and saw huge progress being made since their adoption in 2000.
In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals replaced the MDGs with a more ambitious agenda. Instead of focusing on reducing poverty, the SDGs seek to eliminate it. Alongside this, the SDGs address other global sustainability issues, such as climate change, and set more demanding targets for areas such as health and education.
The SDGs run through until 2030, giving countries 15 years from their introduction in 2015 to work towards the targets and goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) aims to help support governments in their adoption of these goals.
The goals set by the UN are not legally binding, however, countries are expected to voluntarily report on the progress of their implementation.
Why Are The SDGs Important?
The Sustainable Development Goals not only provide a guide for countries working towards a more sustainable future, they also provide an outline of what that future might look like.
By setting goals for a poverty-free, climate conscious society in the near future, the UN has set an expectation for not only global leaders, but for leaders at all levels. As the deadlines for these goals and targets nears, governments are likely to implement policies that work towards achieving them.
These policies are likely to change the way countries like New Zealand operate and the expectations of organisations within them. Therefore, it is important for organisations to understand how these governmental actions may affect them.
While environmental regulations provide a base for a more sustainable future, it can be difficult to adjust to these new policies as they are being implemented.
For this reason, it is a good idea for organisations to be aware of their environmental impacts and work towards a sustainable business model in advance of these policy changes. This way, when new requirements are implemented, organisations will be well-prepared and educated when adapting to them.
An example of this is the recent Zero Carbon Bill (2019) in New Zealand.
While the legislation itself does not outline specific requirements for organisations, there will likely be requirements around mandatory reporting and the offsetting of emissions for certain organisations.
An example of this is the recent legislation around the Task Force for Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. This requires around 200 organisations to make annual disclosures regarding their exposure to climate risk, based on the TCFD’s recommendations.
Organisations that already monitor and voluntarily report on their GHG emissions are likely to have a better handle on this situation and more easily comply with new requirements.
The SDGs: Reporting on Your Organisation's Impact
Beyond being aware of the governmental impacts that the Sustainable Development Goals may have in the future, organisations can use the SDGs as a framework to understand their own impact on sustainability issues, such as climate change.
The Global Reporting Initiative, or GRI, is an independent global standards organisation that works with companies to help them understand and communicate their impact when it comes to sustainability issues, focusing on the 17 SDGs.
This comes in the form of voluntary sustainability reports, which allow for a greater understanding of sustainability within organisations and also provide a platform for building trust with stakeholders.
This voluntary reporting can provide a source of advantage by differentiating your organisation as environmentally conscious, ethical, and transparent. Stakeholders are also able to use this evidence to compare against competitors.
This provides clear benefits as to how your organisation is perceived, building credibility as an organisation committed to the cause by providing real evidence of change.
Beyond these external benefits, GRI reporting can ensure that your organisation has a solid handle on its own operations and potential SDG impacts. Identifying strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in these areas can lead to increased efficiencies and reduced environmental impacts.
Monitoring Your Organisation's Impact
So, transparency is important when it comes to the SDGs and your organisation, but how do you actually start reporting upon your organisation’s contributions?
You are able to report on any of the 17 goals, but a great way to start voluntarily reporting your organisation’s impact is to take a look at your greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Emissions relate directly back to the SDGs, as well as being a key, easy-to-understand sustainability indicator for stakeholders.
If your organisation can prove that it has made a reduction in its carbon footprint, it can be an excellent sign that you are working in line with the SDGs and solidify your reputation as conscious and sustainable.
Monitoring your energy usage, emissions, waste, and other sustainability measures can provide valuable insights as to how your organisation is tracking. From there, any efforts to reduce environmental wastage can be effectively evaluated and organisational changes can be well-informed with sustainability as a central consideration.
If your organisation’s impact can be measured it can be managed. Knowing your organisation’s impact goes beyond assumptions and backing your organisation’s sustainability claims with data is important.
Understanding this information and being able to draw insights from it is crucial, which is why working with a consultant or adopting a reporting software solution is highly advisable.
Carbon EMS: Towards Zero
When it comes to monitoring and understanding your organisation’s energy and carbon emissions, our energy management software solution, e-Bench®, is here to help.
Monitoring, and consequently managing, your organisation’s impact with our e-Bench® software is an excellent way to start working towards a more sustainable future, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
With its advanced reporting capabilities, e-Bench® provides easy-to interpret reports that can support informed management decisions. This allows your organisation to accurately report on your progress towards the SDGs.
Alongside this, we provide valuable insights that will help you reduce your emissions over time, providing support to suit your organisation’s needs.