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What Does the Future Hold?

What Does the Future Hold? Five steps to help hit Sustainable Development Goals for 2018

Professor Carol Adams’ research explores how companies can align their corporate strategies to better meet the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and provides a simple five-step approach for companies to follow.

1. Understanding the sustainable development issues that are relevant to the organisation’s external environment
2. Identifying the material sustainable development issues that can influence value creation.
3. Developing a strategy to contribute to the SDGs through the organisation’s business model.
4. Developing integrated thinking, connectivity and governance.
5. Preparing the integrated report.

In 2015 the United Nations introduced the Sustainable Development Goals to the world. The list of 17 targets, established to tackle pressing global challenges such as poverty, climate change, gender equality, healthcare, green energy and so on by the year 2030, set a benchmark for every country to meet in the effort to create a more sustainable future.

Whilst the overall responsibility for meeting such targets lies with national governments, these goals cannot be achieved without a significant combined effort by businesses and organisations to modernise their practices, innovate and embrace new market opportunities.

The global issues which instigated the development of the SDGs will, in a few short years, pose limitations on the availability of multiple capitals on which businesses rely. However, despite the pressing need for companies to make such changes to their practices, many have been slow to do so.

One reason is the difficulty organisations face in being able to clearly understand exactly how their corporate activities and resources are creating wider value, and being able to define this effectively for their shareholders. To help with this, organisations have been encouraged to use the Integrated Reporting () process to think holistically about incorporating SDGs into their business strategies, make better informed decisions and manage any potential risk. aids companies by influencing how information on sustainability strategies is presented to their boards to help improve awareness of the company’s activities and the benefits of them. The use of such reporting has been proven to build investor and stakeholder confidence, as well as enhance future company performance.

To help tackle this, Professor Adams has authored a report which provides a framework for companies to follow. It guides them in identifying the sustainable development issues in their external environment and identifying which of the 17 SDGs they can contribute to. This then influences their business strategies, decision making processes and business models. The report has been published by the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS), in partnership with the Green Economy Coalition.

“Sustainable Development Goals, integrated thinking and the integrated report” takes reporting organisations through a five-step process aligned with the value creation process of the framework to identify the SDGs they wish to contribute to through their value creation process and guides them in effective implementation. The process helps organisations to consider the risks and opportunities involved in weaving sustainable development into their corporate strategies.

The report also aids organisations in identifying new opportunities for furthering their contributions – helping businesses to ensure long-term value creation from their efforts.

Professor Adams believes that companies who follow this five-step approach will find themselves better able to contribute to the SDGs and report on their activities, helping to boost their reputations and secure the approval of existing and potential stakeholders – not to mention play an important role in helping their respective industries and countries meet the global 2030 targets.

The overriding message is that it can make good business sense to integrate SDGs into business strategy and practice, but only if organisations take a considered, holistic approach on how to do this to best effect. It is not enough for an organisation to simply engage in greenwashing. The effectiveness of any effort into promoting sustainability is reliant upon how well such initiatives are embedded in daily business practice, and the reporting of these efforts.

Encouraging organisations to integrate sustainable development considerations is challenging and requires a concerted effort led from the top.

You can view the full report here.

This article was first published in IMPACT Magazine in January 2018.

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