The Sustainable Development Goals and Corporate Social Responsibility

by Anna Bosak, Andersen Corporation

This week, in partnership with Global Minnesota, CVC-TC hosted a webinar focused on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and how they can help guide corporate strategy, including corporate social responsibility and volunteerism efforts. The 17 SDGs are the world's best plan to build a better world for people and our planet by 2030. These goals recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs including education, health, equality, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and working to preserve our ocean and forests. 

We heard from Irena Zubcevic, Chief of the Intergovernmental Policy and Review Branch at the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Zubcevic has nearly 30 years of industry experience, and was able to speak to the critical role of the private sector in achieving the ambitious agenda set out in the SDGs. 

Key takeaways for CVC-TC members include: 

- The SDGs have transformative potential. These goals are inclusive, focus on the three dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social, and environmental), and can make it possible to fulfill the needs of the current generations while also preparing for future generations. The SDGs are also highly interconnected – achieving any one goal will also require progress on other goals.  

- To achieve the SDGs, contributions will be needed from all sectors. Governments and nonprofits alone cannot reach all of the goals outlined in the SDGs. The private sector will need to contribute investment (at a projected level of up to $1.5 trillion) and innovation to make the SDGs a reality.  

- The SDGs are good for business. Following the principles of the SDGs will help companies adjust to the reality that business as usual is no longer an option (as we are seeing right now, with the COVID-19 crisis), and help companies focus on long-term, sustainable business models. Successful businesses of the future will be those that meet the needs of as many people as possible, utilize as few resources as possible, and engage in meaningful dialogue with their stakeholders.  

- Business can take action today to align to the SDGs. Key steps include: 1) incorporate the SDGs into company strategy; 2) drive transition to sustainable markets along with sector peers; 3) work with policy makers to create systems which facility paying the true cost of natural and human resources; 4) push for a financial system oriented toward longer-term, sustainable investment; and 5) rebuild the social contract and trust with the public. For additional guidance, businesses can look to the principles outlined in the UN Global Compact.  

Especially in times of global disruption and crisis, as we are experiencing currently, the importance of cross-sector, international coordination is evident. If the private sector, nonprofits, and government can come together to focus on shared goals, we can move toward a more sustainable, prosperous, and inclusive world.