What are the UN Sustainable Development Goals for business?

Jessica Vallentine
Service Integration Manager | Business West Ltd
17th April 2019

You probably have a strategy for your business, whether or not it’s written down (if not, you might want to take ten minutes to think about it). But what about a strategy for the planet? 

Running a business is hard enough but collective impact across countries and cultures can often feel impossible. However there is now a strategy for global impact in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and there’s a way for you to get involved, too.

These 17 statements and associated performance indicators are as close as we might be able to get to a global business plan. Agreed in 2015, and working to a 15 year timeline, the SDGs identify key categories of impact that, collectively, we need to achieve for a more inclusive, sustainable and prosperous world.

This year Business West started looking at the SDGs as a framework for talking about our impact, both internally for our staff and externally for our customers and our region. Our core purpose is to make our region the best place to live, learn, work and succeed in business, so we are committed to making a positive impact. But we are always looking for ways to connect what we do to the wider world and to find ways to talk about the impact that we have here. When we discovered this structure for talking about impact, and connecting it to global drivers, it just made sense. We’re at the start of the journey, but we’re enthusiastic about where it’s taking us.

It is through this work of looking at what we do, how it falls within the SDGs, as well as our connections through our Initiative team, that we joined the SDG Alliance. The Alliance is a Bristol-based gathering of companies and organisations that are also interested in using the SDGs as a common language to talk about the impact we’re having now and what we want to achieve in the future. 

And now, led by researchers from the Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol, in partnership with Bristol City Council and the Bristol City Office, Business West, along with the rest of the alliance, is taking part in a consultation to better understand how public, private and non-profit organisations across Bristol are contributing towards building a more sustainable global future. The researchers have set up a simple survey to gather information about the different things that organisations around the region are doing that fall within the purview of the SDGs. 

It may seem daunting, but it’s likely that if you do anything that you would categorise as “Corporate Social Responsibility” within your business, you are contributing to the achievement of the SDGs already. And the researchers would like to hear from you.

An example of something that went into our survey response is the work we’ve been doing to support mental health in the workplace. Internally, we have trained up two mental health first aiders, for the benefit of our staff, with the aim to train more. Externally, we have been undertaking a campaign to raise mental health awareness in the workplace among businesses in our communities. These actions fit neatly within SDG target 3.4, “reduce mortality from non-communicable diseases and promote mental health.”  

Do you have a cycle to work scheme or an on-site gym? All these things fit within SDG3: ‘good health and well-being’. Encouraging your staff to reduce the number of single use plastics they use? That fits within SDG 12: responsible consumption and production. Every action, no matter how small, has an impact and it is worth spreading the word. 

The benefit to you is that you get to understand how the small steps you are taking roll up into real, tangible impact in the wider world. Using the SDGs also gives you a mechanism for talking to your customers and suppliers about the good work that you do. The benefit to the researchers is that they will get a fuller picture about the impact that the city and the region is making, in order to focus attention and effort on the areas where less is being done. And together, we all reap the rewards of a better future.

Take the survey here: https://s.surveytown.com/survey/?c=201472&id=1

The length it takes depends on how much you do. You will only see the SDGs that you have said you will act against. You can fill in as much or as little as you have time for – every bit of information helps. And if you’re interested in getting involved, get in touch with us and we can connect you with the SDG Alliance.

Do you want to join the conversation?

Sign up here
  • The Bristol SDG Alliance

    The Bristol SDG Alliance grew out of a series of local-to-global events including during Big Green Week in June 2016. It brings together a range of organisations and individuals to raise awareness of the SDGs and its use as a framework for the city's future sustainable and resilient development and enabling it to monitor its own progress.

  • Bristol Sustainable Development Goals Survey

    This short survey is designed to gather information about how the activities of organisations across Bristol are contributing towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). You don’t need any prior knowledge of the SDGs to take this survey.