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In September 2015, all 193 Member States of the United Nations adopted a plan for achieving a better future for all — laying out a path over the next 15 years to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and protect our planet. At the heart of “Agenda 2030” are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which clearly define the world we want — applying to all nations and leaving no one behind.

The new Global Goals result from a process that has been more inclusive than ever, with Governments involving business, civil society and citizens from the outset. We are all in agreement on where the world needs to go. Fulfilling these ambitions will take an unprecedented effort by all sectors in society — and business has to play a very important role in the process.


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No matter how large or small, and regardless of their industry, all companies can contribute to the SDGs. While the scale and scope of the global goals is unprecedented, the fundamental ways that business can contribute remain unchanged. The UN Global Compact asks companies to first do business responsibly and then pursue opportunities to solve societal challenges through business innovation and collaboration.

Global challenges – ranging from climate, water and food crises, to poverty, conflict and inequality – are in need of solutions that the private sector can deliver, representing a large and growing market for business innovation. In the rush to transform business models and systems for the future, integrity and values will have a huge role to play. For companies wanting to advance the SDG agenda, the job starts by acting responsibly – incorporating the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact widely into strategies and operations, and understanding that good practices or innovation in one area cannot make up for doing harm in another.

See what you can do:

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1. Understand the SDGs and link relevant targets to your business activities

The very first step for companies in their SDG journey is to learn more about each of the goals, the relevant targets, and KPIs to see how they are directly and indirectly related to their business activities.

For example, Schneider Electric connected its business activities to all 17 goals via 5 megatrends: Climate, Circular Economy, Ethics, Health & Equity, and Development.

2. Define priorities

Companies should prioritize SDG targets by considering which will have the biggest impact in terms of risk or opportunity in medium- to long-term and which goals the company has the ability to contribute to achieving progress in. It may be that a company is contributing to all of the 17 goals, but when allocating resources and defining the timeline, it is important to start with those targets which create the largest impact. As an example, the Chinese technology company, Huawei, actively worked on developing the ICT Sustainable Development Goals Benchmark. They explored the relationship between ICT and sustainable development and identified the goals with the biggest correlation to the ICT sectors: SDG-4 – Quality of Education, SDG 3 – Good Health & Well-being, SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. These sectoral benchmarks can be used as the first step for the company to understand their impacts across different goals.

3. Set the goals.

Once the key SDGs are identified, it is important to link those goals to actual business targets and KPIs to monitor and communicate progress. Quite often, companies may already have existing targets and actions which they can leverage while developing their SDG strategy. Many science-based target (SBT) committed companies use their validated targets to monitor performance on the SDG 13 – Climate Action and SDG 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy. For example, Unilever provided a clear link and details on how their carbon positive targets align with various initiatives such as RE100, SBT, and contribute to the relevant SDGs.

4. Integrate.

In order to make the SDG strategy viable and effective, companies must integrate these targets into the existing strategy, taking into account business models, procurement and R&D processes, and supply chain transformations. By realigning sustainability strategies to achieve both corporate goals and the SDGs, companies can identify areas where they can draw from existing commitments and projects to contribute positively toward SDGs. Novo Nordisk partnered with Washington and Lee University to analyze how some of their existing programs are impacting SDGs and created an interactive chart showing those connections.

5. Innovate and collaborate

The SDGs provide a framework for innovation, creating business growth opportunities and new business models, products, or services that drive progress toward the goals. Following the framework also helps to identify partners within sectors and across different industries which enable organizations to scale up their efforts and ultimately achieve the goals. As part of their work on SBTs and SDG13 – Climate Action, Nokia identified that Radio Access Networks result in a global energy bill of over $70 billion. To address the need to decouple data growth from energy use, the company developed an innovative AirScale radio base station solution (BTS) for mobile operators, which consumes 28% less power and helps to build zero-emissions networks.

6. Report and communicate

Companies need to be ready to communicate their progress in addressing goals linked to the SDGs. It is crucial to integrate the SDGs in the core business reporting process to avoid duplicated efforts and ensure transparency and accessibility of their performance to various internal and external stakeholders.

Useful tools and methodologies are emerging for companies to understand better how they can contribute to the SDGs in a holistic way.

As an example, in August 2019, three accounting associations (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) and Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)) jointly published SDG disclosure recommendations linking various reporting frameworks including the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), the Taskforce on Climate related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and the UK Financial Reporting Council (FRC) aimed at supporting organizations with their reports on progress towards the achievement of the SDGs.

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In February 2023, the Fairpreneurs project team gathered for their inaugural Transnational Project Meeting in Szczecin, hosted by the University. Delegates from Denmark, Ireland, and Cyprus joined forces to advance the project, focusing on the development of methodologies for the WP2 Good Practice Compendium and Curriculum Kit. The discussions explored identifying and engaging suitable businesses as case studies, establishing criteria, and formulating key interview questions. Additional talks delved into curriculum content, from modules and learning objectives to activities. The productive meeting concluded with a cultural stroll and a partner dinner in the city, cementing collaboration and setting the stage for future project milestones.

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