Long-term business success is important, along with your employees, community and planet.
Today’s world faces unprecedented, interconnected environmental challenges in the fields of climate change, water, energy, biodiversity, and agriculture. As business relies directly through supply chains on natural resources, new corporate efforts are needed to address environmental responsibilities, value natural capital and better understand the interconnectedness of resources.
Of particular importance is the increasing connection between various environmental problems (climate, food, water), as well as their links with social and development priorities. All businesses must help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including the Paris Agreement’s action plan on climate change, adopted at COP21.
Companies are obligated to move away from the traditional approach, mainly based on compliance with regulations and risk assessment in the narrower sense, through their own development. The companies must commit to actively deal with risks and opportunities related to the environment and invest significant efforts in business in the areas of climate, water and food.
Social sustainability relates to recognizing and managing the positive and negative impacts of business on people. The quality of company-consumer relations is crucial, as is proactive impact management, as companies directly or indirectly affect what happens to customers, employees, value chain workers and local communities.
A company’s social license to operate depends largely on their efforts at social sustainability, thus lack of social development, including poverty, inequality, and a weak rule of law, hinders business and growth. Simultaneously, activities aimed at achieving social sustainability can lead to developing new markets, providing assistance in retaining and attracting business partners, or being a source of innovation for new product or service lines.
Strengthening productivity, managing risk and eliminating conflicts between the company and the community enable the improvement of internal morale and employee involvement.
The first six principles of the UN Global Compact focus on the social dimension of corporate sustainability, which is based on human rights. Social sustainability also includes the human rights of specific groups: labor, women’s empowerment and gender equality, children, indigenous peoples, and people with disabilities, as well as a population-based approach to the impact of companies on poverty. In addition to covering groups of rights-holders, it also includes influential issues related to education and health.
Management includes systems and processes that ensure the overall efficiency of an entity – a company, government or multilateral institution. Promoting good governance is a multidimensional challenge that requires mutually reinforcing efforts. For instance, combating corruption is of key importance for the rule of law and building peace as it negatively affects state capacities, social inclusion and natural resource management.
Peace enables sustainable development and is a essential for the establishment of the rule of law as well as the efforts made to reduce corruption. The rule of law is imperative to effectively addressing the drivers of violent conflict, illicit financial flows, impunity, and providing a legal framework that ensures impartiality and predictability.
At the micro level, companies can improve good governance by integrating corporate sustainability principles into their own operations and relationships, thereby enabling greater transparency, accountability and inclusion. At the macro level, companies can contribute to the development and implementation of international norms and standards, for instance, as part of their commitment to the UN Global Compact.
Sustainable development goals explained for business
In September 2015, the 193 member states of the United Nations adopted a plan to achieve a better future, thereby setting the path for the next 15 years towards ending extreme poverty, fighting inequality and injustice, and protecting the planet.
At the centre of “Agenda 2030” are 17 sustainable development goals (Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs) that define the world we want, applying to all nations and leaving no one behind.
The new global goals are the result of a process that is more extensive than ever before, as governments involve businesses, civil society and citizens from the very beginning of the process.
Together, we are united about the direction the world should go. Achieving the stated ambitions implies an unprecedented effort from all sectors within society where companies must play an important role.
Improvement of sustainable development:
Everyone benefits from a better world.
On January 1, 2016, 17 sustainable development goals from the Program on Sustainable Development until 2030, adopted by world leaders at the historic UN summit in September 2015, officially came into force.
Over the next fifteen years, with the stated new goals applicable to all, countries will make efforts to end all forms of poverty and fight inequality and climate change.
Today’s business climate is defined by an unprecedented, accelerating and complex combination of risks and opportunities. The entire market is exposed to disruption in the short term by countless factors such as new technology or a sudden shortage of natural resources. Megatrends such as population growth, resource scarcity, or global health risks are developing new markets. Meanwhile, consumers and investors have access to better information and demand companies to take responsibility for placing pressure on the planet and its population.
There is a growing understanding, especially among business leaders and investors who are ahead of their time, that companies’ focus on managing short-term profits alone is not sufficient enough, as natural disasters, social unrest and economic inequality can harm long-term progress. Companies that understand this challenge and take adequate actions will be one step ahead.
It is clear that the Sustainable Development Goals, in addition to defining where we need to be in 2030 to create a sustainable world, also outline new markets and opportunities for companies globally.
Thus, in order to succeed, it is necessary to incorporate global goals into local business.
International Institute for Climate Action
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