How Businesses Can Lead Climate-Smart Sustainable Development

In a historic moment three years ago, all 193 Member States of the United Nations committed to a series of actions toward achieving a better future for all people on the globe by 2030.

These are the most ambitious global agreements among countries ever developed. They are unique because they focus on time-bound, measurable goals and targets to address a holistic action plan for achieving social, economic, and environmental justice.

This ambitious global agenda revolves around 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aiming to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and protect our planet. They apply to all nations, with no person left behind.

As countries lay their own paths, it’s essential that the private sector seizes a major role. Companies large or small, and across all industries, can contribute to achieving the SDGs.

It’s not just about “being good”—the SDGs are good for business. Imagine trying to grow and expand globally in a world burdened with increasing inequality, poverty and climate change. When people thrive, so does industry. More than 35 CEOs and civil society leaders of the Business & Sustainable Development Commission determined that sustainable business models could open economic opportunities worth up to US$12 trillion and increase employment by up to 380 million jobs by 2030.

Your workforce also wants to make an impact. A great place for employers to start is on climate action, which influences 13 of the 17 SDGs. In today’s era of skills shortages and the brutal “war for talent,” employers are looking for ways to stand apart from their hiring competitors. When you provide opportunities for employees to take positive action to have a smaller environmental footprint, you’ll create a more desirable employer brand.

There are hundreds of practices boards and CEOs can introduce—from telecommuting and reducing waste to incentives for volunteering in the community—to engage their workforce in activities that align with the global goals. But it’s important that these actions are strategic and inclusive. Below are steps suggested by The Sustainable Development Goals Advocates that business leaders can take to implement climate initiatives across the organization.

Step 1 – Engage Your Whole Company
Assess the impact of your company against the SDGs and the Paris Climate Accord and identify related risks and opportunities across your entire value chain.

Step 2 – Get Commitment From the Board
Hold a meeting of the board (or the executive management team) to set time-bound goals and targets specific to your company that align with climate smart sustainable development.

Step 3 – Seek Mutual Accountability with Your Shareholders
Communicate with shareholders and other stakeholders the goals your company has set to contribute to the SDGs and the Paris Climate Accord, and report regularly on progress made.

Step 4 – Mobilize All Employees
Engage all your employees in advancing climate smart sustainable development through their own work, and distribute responsibilities across the entire organization for achieving progress.

Step 5 – Communicate Commitment To The Public
Add an extra layer of accountability by promoting your commitment to your clients and the public. Include SDG icons and branding in your products, communication materials, and annual report.

The SDGs are already generating transformative action in critical areas for humanity and the planet. It’s time for directors and CEOs to bring their organizations on board and be a part of this unprecedented global gift to humankind.