Realizing Business Opportunity within the SDGs: Lessons from BSR 2015

On the ground at the BSR conference earlier this month in San Francisco, it was clear that private sector commitment to sustainability has become mainstream.

Sustainable Development Goals (a.k.a. SDGs or Global Goals) adopted by world leaders at the General Assembly in September with surprising speed. In fact, the private sector was consulted and included in the Global Goals formulation, a striking contrast to the process of creating the Millennium Development Goals (a.k.a. MDGs) fifteen years ago.

In the BSR session entitled “Implementing the SDGs: A How To Guide,” sustainability leaders from BNY Mellon, Pfizer and Microsoft shared their insights into how companies can – and should – contribute to the Global Goals, because it just makes good business sense.

Business leaders emphasized the following themes:

Respect Goal Interconnectedness: Chris Gray of Pfizer noted that, while there are 17 individual goals, you can’t address any specific goal in a silo. Outcomes in one area are inextricably linked to the others.

Frame the Value Proposition: Microsoft’s Dan Bross recommends developing a narrative that outlines business priorities and opportunities through the lens of the Goals, then aligning the right incentives for each stakeholder group to the desired action.

Simplify & Streamline: All three panelists cited the need to simplify complex challenges into clear, concise, actionable information. This will require a certain amount of translation to ensure that employees, investors, partners and other stakeholders can relate to the Goals.

Empower Champions: Anna Kearney of BNY Mellon reinforced the importance of identifying and cultivating internal champions who can help evangelize the Global Goals within the company. She cited an informal fellowship program that has emerged as people across her company have become aware of BNY Mellon’s sustainability work and begun seeking special projects they can join outside of their core responsibilities.

If you want to learn more about the Global Goals and how your company can participate, please refer to the SDG Compass tool created by the UN Global Compact, GRI and WBCSD.

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