When Business talks about Sustainability and being sustainable what do they mean? The economic aspects of creating a business model that will be successful for the future is pretty much understood by all, but what about the other aspects – the impacts on the environment and on people?
Sustainability is really about bringing together the three aspects Economic, Social and Environmental, (often referred to as the three pillars) with equal importance and implementing them into how business interacts with the world and its resources.
Sometimes businesses which are highly technical can find it difficult to relate their ambitions and practices into a world which needs them to be more considerate. They can feel disengaged as they are so embedded in the market needs of a capital led industry and surrounded in urban locations long since selected for rapid air-links and motorway links to suppliers and customers . However, the reality is that the need to embrace change across all business is of urgency no matter the market you are in or want to get into – and it is possible to achieve at a fundamental level without the need for greenwashing!
At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012, Member States adopted the outcome document "The Future We Want" in which they decided, to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to establish the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.
Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its 17 SDGs was adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York in September 2015.
UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals https://sdgs.un.org/goals
With the post-Covid Build Back Better Sustainable Innovation Fund in the UK and the NGEU largest ever funding budget from the EU there are many opportunities for companies with Innovation ideas to be able to obtain some grant support. Sustainable Development isn’t just a buzzword, it is rapidly becoming a deeply embedded set of criteria that all innovation must embrace and align with in or fail to get public sector support.
From the research that SSC has done it appears that companies fall into mainly two categories.
The first is the group of companies that feel their business cannot fit into the criteria and that the goals really don’t apply to their ultra-technical market. They tend to make some effort around Gender Equality and skip rapidly over the list without any real engagement with the meaning of what is being asked across the other 16.
The second are companies that are aligned with the BioEconomy, with getting a balance with the Three Pillars of society, environment and economics, and very naturally are doing what the UN has challenged them with.
The first group tend to miss out positives about their businesses which could help them bring SD into their working practice without much effort, and therefore more easily score more thoroughly on the Sustainable Development section of any application forms.
The second group tend to miss out positives about their businesses which they are failing to headline and include in their applications.
Here is our guide to what you can do to make your company more clearly and visibly aligned with the 17 Goals