Sustainability has moved beyond being a topic that businesses feel that they should have a stance on to becoming something that they need to make significant investment around in order to operate. A 2014 study by non-profit company CDP, found that corporations with sustainability strategies outperform those without.
To take this a step further, in conversations that we have with our customers on a near daily basis, an increasing amount are considering the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030 – and are looking to match their own policies against this list. As a result, businesses are looking beyond recycling (although still important) to ensuring that their supply chains and product sourcing are both ethically and sustainably sound.
What can we do?
While in the past, organisations focused on sustainability as a tick box which could be used for positive PR, the publicity surrounding Greta Thunberg or Extinction Rebellion are bringing sustainability to the top of the agendas for many. With such high profile events taking place around the world, as global citizens, business leaders can no longer ignore the impact their business is making on the environment and so now is the time to deliver genuine and positive change when it comes to the sustainable business practices that you deploy.
The role of industry and government
This was particularly evident during a meeting on October 16th, where the UN secretary-general, António Guterres, brought together chief executives from 30 of the world’s biggest companies to gain real support for the UN’s SDG’s. At the meeting, they committed to increasing long-term finance and investment directed at sustainable development.
After the meeting, Oliver Bäte, Allianz CEO and co-chair of the UN-led Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance (GISD) said: “As responsible companies, we can create long-term value by embedding sustainability into our core business. Investing in the stable development of societies across the globe is not only the right thing to do, it also provides economic opportunities.”
Closer to home, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recently announced the launch of a £3bn green investment portfolio. At the time of announcement, she commented: “Scotland is determined to lead the transition to a net-zero carbon economy, and we have been clear that we must leave no-one behind. With 85% of the finance for this transition coming from the private sector, we must do everything we can to help all parts of the economy contribute to net-zero emissions by 2045.” This commitment from the highest levels of business and politics could be the factor that helps to create the change that is needed.
How SDGs play their part
The SDGs provide individuals and organisations with a focus on sustainability and specific areas which will in the long-term benefit not only them, but also the world. Sustainability, however, is not a zero-sum game; and many initiatives that benefit humanity and the planet can also bring significant positives for business. For example, cutting carbon output and energy use can significantly reduce lower energy bills, while it’s been shown that consumers are willing to pay more for ethical products.
While Carbon offsetting is considered by many as a feel-good choice when booking a flight to make you feel less bad about your footprint, there is in fact a more important outcome. Carbon offsetting is also designed to promote good forest management, habitat conservation and to preserve our forests from exploitation.
It is encouraging to see both industry and government put their money where their mouth is. However, ultimately, it is vitally important that action is taken so that we can see real change in this lifetime.
by Gavin Tweedie, CEO