by Vikas Vij — The world’s current rate of action may not be enough to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. To reach the goals, the private sector, representing 60 percent of the world’s GDP, has a key role to play. Business can be the swing factor: the actions companies choose to take have the power to amplify change – for good and for bad.
To assess the progress on the 17 SDGs and examine the role of business, DNV GL has released a forecast report called the “Future of Spaceship Earth.” The report launch was co-hosted with the UN Global Compact at the UN headquarters in New York.
The report shows that, while many of the goals will make good progress across several world regions, action will not be fast enough or fair enough and will come at an unacceptable environmental cost. However, there is still time to reset the course of ‘Spaceship Earth,’ according to the report.
The scale of the challenge is such that urgent, extraordinary action is now needed. Business is uniquely positioned to drive this magnitude of action, and some companies have already taken the lead. To highlight their contribution, the report showcases 17 global companies making significant progress on each of the global goals. These pioneers are driving sustainable change through innovations, partnerships and adjustment of business models.
The companies at the frontier of the progress on the SDGs include Tata, Danone, HiTechnologies, ARM, Symantec, Grundfos, SolarWorld, NYK, Hydro, Safaricom, Siemens, Marks & Spencer, Iberdrola, Cermaq, APP, Calvert Investments and Unilever. The SDGs have become a blueprint for companies to reshape and future-fit their business.
According to Remi Eriksen, Group President & CEO of DNV GL, for the most part, business has the technology, people and processes to rock the world. The challenge, therefore, is not the ‘smarts’, it is the take-up of the solutions proposed and piloted – the real scaling of these interventions.
Some of the companies that have embedded the 2030 goals into their business strategy include:
Danone is helping in the fight against climate change. The company’s Livelihoods initiative has enabled the plantation of 130 million trees, sequestering 10 million tons of CO2, thanks to the complementary expertise and power of over 10 major companies as partner investors and as many NGOs, all building on mutual capacity and knowledge sharing. The €100 million Danone Ecosystem fund operates 63 projects in 28 countries, conducted hand-in-hand with 51 NGO partners.
Symantec is working towards achieving the goal of gender equality. A proactive intention, backed by Symantec’s executive leadership, resulted in a shift over just two years from 10 percent to 30 percent representation on the Board of Directors. The company also set goals around the percentage of women in leadership (at director level and above), launching projects to develop females inside the company. Symantec has also launched a program of rapid education to increase the numbers of women and people of color within the cyber security space.
SolarWorld is leading change in the arena of clean energy. With innovative high-performance products, it holds a key role in the quality segment of the solar market. A strong focus on R&D keeps SolarWorld about “18 months ahead of the technology curve.” Reducing costs by increasing automation allows the company to compete on attributes other than price – such as quality, longevity, reliability, and efficiency.
Siemens is pursuing the global goal to build sustainable cities and communities. The Siemens Urban Development Team works with cities, helping them focus on optimal technologies to reduce their carbon footprint and improve local quality of life, while building in resilience to expanded and upgraded infrastructure. The three key focus areas are: energy, transport, and buildings. The company’s own technologies touch almost every aspect of urban life. Many of its technologies are helping cities and industry to reduce their carbon emissions.
Marks & Spencer has incorporated the global goal of responsible production and consumption into its business strategy. The company’s “Plan A” sustainability program aims to embed sustainability into every aspect of their production, consumption, and disposal cycle. Plan A introduced 100 social and environmental commitments, which the company has driven over the last 10 years. By 2020, the company will have at least one sustainability story to tell in every one of the three billion items it sells, which could be MSC fish, or FSC wood, or made in an eco factory.
Calvert is incorporating sustainability into its investment decisions. Calvert specifically seeks companies with business practices that solve the most difficult challenges that society faces, and who do so with a high degree of transparency and in a manner that makes financial sense. The company is in the process of mapping the SDGs to the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) material ESG indicators, seeking to establish a set of standards that companies should meet in terms of ESG disclosures and essential practices.
Six years ago Unilever launched a new Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (‘USLP’), which was a direct response to its vision for a sustainable world. The plan has helped Unilever increase the size of its business, while minimizing environmental impact and maximizing social impact. Under the plan, the company has over 50 very tightly-bound and very specific targets, grouped into different areas of relevance to Unilever’s business.
Source and Image: DNV GL