7 simple ways companies can integrate Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Sustainability means different things not just for people but also for businesses. While individual actions are always important, it’s also essential to get the large corporations and organisations involved in environmental protection and the betterment of our society. For the world to succeed, companies must integrate the sustainable development goals (SDGs) into their business strategies. But how can they do it?

The sustainable development goals were announced in 2015 as part of a UN’s resolution. The 17 goals include 169 targets, which should be reached within the next 15 years – these are the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In order to reach these targets, governments around the world need business leaders to be part of the change as well. Many companies have answered the call.

In fact, the private sector is to have an important role in achieving the 17goals. It will act as the core player in helping to innovate, develop and implement ideas and technologies that will move the world closer to reaching these goals.

Of course, certain development goals will play a different role in a company’s strategy. Geographic location, the size of the company and the industry can all impact how to identify the key SDGs. Therefore, it is important to find ways to implement and integrate the goals together with local communities and stakeholders.

So, what are some of the simple ways new companies can integrate SDGs into business strategy? Here are seven simple examples.

1. Pick the goals that matter the most to your organisation

All SDGs are important but a business might not have the capability to implement all of them. A small business operating in the UK might find it difficult to create an impact in goal number six (Clean Water and Sanitation). Instead, its approach to conducting business could have a big impact on goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production). Therefore, it’s crucial for businesses to understand they don’t need to integrate all goals into action – especially at once – but they should pick the ones that they can have the most impact on.

2. Improve awareness of the goals

Companies can integrate the goals as part of their business strategy by ensuring awareness of SDGs reaches different stakeholders. It’s a good idea to include educational material of the goals to employees, shareholders and even customers. This will ensure the goals are at the forefront when individuals take action within the organisation.

3. Prioritise employment opportunities

For most companies, the easiest way to tackle some of the goals is through better employment policies. This means becoming an inclusive employer and reaching out to communities that might not generally get the opportunity to participate in the industry – having apprentice opportunities for young people in poor and ethnic minority communities and ensuring the company has a gender balance in terms of employment.

4. Examine supply chains

For a number of companies, the big impact will be on how the company selects and manages its suppliers. Even if the company implements green policies at its office, its suppliers might not share the same values. Therefore, it’s essential for companies to integrate the goals into launching partnerships and engage with suppliers that share the same philosophy.

5. Boost transparency

One simple, yet effective way to incorporate the goals into your company strategy is simply by enhancing your transparency. Include more information about where, when and how you are sourcing your business materials, what your hiring criteria are, and so on. This will force companies to look at these questions but also make it easier for consumers to make informed decisions.

6. Invest in climate mitigation

Climate mitigation is not as costly as many companies assume. Various service providers like Tesco, provide solutions that improve the value of the product in terms of sustainability without it increasing the price for consumers. Another good example is electric and hybrid vehicles. These vehicles were perceived inferior in performance and more expensive than standard vehicles, but this trade-off has never materialised. Consumers are now often opting for these cars because they provide the additional eco-friendly element.

7. Focus on long-term goals

Overall, the SDGs are long-term goals and businesses should view them through this lens. It’s important to look at the benefits of diverting some of the profits to a charity for female empowerment in terms of the long-term impact on the business rather than short-term impact. In the end, as FeikeSijbesma, the CEO of Royal DSM, explained in the Guardian, “Nobody can be successful – or even dare to call themselves successful – in a world that fails”.

According to a research by PwC, 71% of businesses admit to planning how they can engage with SDGs. Companies understand the impact they can have and the value that focusing on these goals can provide to their organisation. Indeed, 90% of people feel it’s important for businesses to participate in the achievement of SDGs. Therefore, for a business, involvement and integration of these goals isn’t just ethically important, it can also make a lot of business sense.

Getting started isn’t impossible. Click here to read our four-step process for getting the SDGs off the ground in your business.

 

Author: Swapnil Kulkarni from VoucherBin.co.uk

Everyone is talking about blockchain, so why all the hype?

When 10,000 government delegates met at COP23 to tackle climate change, the UNFCC and other sponsors brought 100 blockchain developers to Bonn with one purpose – to code for climate. From November 12-17th, developers and industry experts met at COP’s first Hackathon, Hack4Climate. During the competition, I along with developers from all over the world, formed teams with industry experts to build blockchain-based apps & startups. The idea was to have developers and experts team up to innovate and create blockchain solutions that can start slowing down climate change now.

Blockchain, the world’s most secure digital ledger, interested the UN because it has the capability to transform and automate agreements and transactions. Blockchain’s ledger functionality can help governments, organisations, and businesses automate, record and securitize transactions and processes. With blockchain, you can track emissions sensors from all over the world, trace a product from the beginning to the end of its supply chain or even amplify the transparency of business agreements.

But first, what is blockchain?

While the bulk of blockchain news concentrates on cryptocurrency and bitcoin, the real reason why blockchain is exciting is that its structure can be used for other sectors, including sustainability.

Blockchain at its core, is a new online system of structuring and securing information, whether it be for digital currency or solar production rates. The system, consists of nodes, also known as computers. Each computer tracks details about the process being recorded. For instance, a detailed account of every energy transaction a user makes, the date and the user that makes that transaction. Then, all the computers or nodes are connected to one ledger, that records the entire systems’ information. As each node is updated with the same information, it leaves a permanent record or ledger of the process. Simple at its heart, blockchain is a secure digital ledger that tracks items from many different sources at the same time, all while showing that ledger to the many parties involved.

How Blockchain is Influencing Sustainability Projects

This simple, yet innovative technology is being used to influence every corner of the environmental field.

At Hack4Climate, international developers focused on the five main ways blockchain is influencing the environmental field: identification & tracking of emissions, carbon pricing, sustainable land use, sustainable transport, and distributed energy. Over the competition, we discussed current blockchain solutions and worked together to create new ideas of how blockchain can transform each of the five fields.

Identification & Tracking of Emissions:

Provenance, a platform based in the UK, is already allowing suppliers, auditors and shoppers to track items through the supply chain. However, more organisations are using blockchain within their companies to track their merchandise. At Hack4Climate, Everledger, a global start-up focused on tracking provenance of diamonds and other metals, asks developers to help them trace emissions from the diamond industry. During the competition, Everledger worked with developers to create an application that can trace diamonds, using a unique ID, from the beginning to the end of its supply chain. The end application allows users to download an Everledger app to track their diamonds carbon footprint.

Carbon Pricing

Carbon pricing is another sustainability issue that blockchainers have dug into. At the competition, Clean Coin, worked with developers to help reduce the amount of carbon produced by blockchain mining. As cited by the Cologne Centre for Economic Service, if 50% of the world uses cryptocurrency by 2030, the demand would exceed today’s entire energy supply. Clean Coin pitched a solution to this issue, using a platform that encourages miners to reduce their footprint. Since renewable energy is only available in certain areas and at certain times, it would allow miners to make more informed decisions by telling them when and where to mine. Users can then mine responsibly, in areas with more renewable energy and at times when it can be provided.

Sustainable Land Use

Sustainable land use is not what people usually think of when they think about blockchain. However, two groups at the competition, GainForest and Plant Life, provided solutions to reduce deforestation. GainForest focused on financially incentivizing caretakers to reduce Amazonian deforestation. During the 24-hour competition, they used blockchain to allow donators to pay small-scale farmers, satellite data to verify if small-scale farmers have reduced deforestation, and machine learning to predict the areas of the Amazon that are the most at risk to deforestation.

Plant Life approached deforestation by gamifying tree planting and reforestation verification. This start-up believes that we can mitigate deforestation, by focusing on saving trees that are still acting as carbon sinks. Pitching their product as the plant version of Pokemon Go, gamers can verify trees and their growth rate on the blockchain by taking pictures of the tree at different time periods. The pictures are put together to give organisations a better idea of the growth rate of individual trees, allowing them to make more informed forest management decisions.

Sustainable Transport

Swiss Federal Railways (SBB CFF FFS), one of the sponsors at Hack4Climate, asked developers to help them build a blockchain-supported transport solution. Developers from the group Autonomi argued that in order to foster a car-lite society, we need to encourage users to opt into public transport. Pitching their solution as anti-Uber, their end-to-end platform negotiates and authenticates payment seamlessly between public and private transport. Mobile users will be able to pre-pay for their trips and use their phones to access cars, buses, and trains. Moreover, the platform incentivises users to go green by charging fees for the carbon they emit during their trip.

Distributed Energy                                                                                                                             

Now, how is blockchain is revamping the energy sector? Multiple start-ups are already focusing on democratizing and decentralising energy production by incorporating blockchain into community-level peer-to-peer energy transfers.  LO3 Energy, is an organisation most known for the Brooklyn Microgrid, already allows for peer-to-peer energy transfers in community micro grids. The microgrid allows members to trade and sell the energy they produce from their own solar systems and store energy within home battery units.

Credit: Hack4Climate

At Hack4Climate, I worked with two energy start-ups, Net+ Block and Energy Islands, which worked off of peer-to-peer transferring systems, to provide grid-level balancing in areas that already have grid access or have no grid at all.  Net+ Block, a grid load-balancing solution, partners with energy providers to transform the grid to reach 100% renewable energy. Energy exchanges are automated between the provider and energy user and billing cost is reduced by using blockchain to verify consumption. Energy Islands, a no-grid solution targets areas that can’t access electricity. With nothing more than solar PV units, PV & islanding inverters, a mounting system, and battery, Energy Islands creates a nano-grid, furthering and democratizing energy access.

Time for businesses to take action

The World Economic Forum announced that, “by 2027 10% of global GDP will be stored in blockchain” and that it will be highly incorporated into taxes and other contractual agreements. Fin-tech, banks, and tech firms have bet on this rate of blockchain uptake and are using its framework to transform technological systems all around the world. While the blockchain hype began with digital currency, there is space for the sustainability to use blockchain for good.

To fight climate change, more environmental companies should work with developers to create blockchain-supported climate solutions. Organisations can grab on to this new technology and realise its potential by partnering with blockchain groups and developers and incorporating it into their current frameworks, helping accelerate our journey to carbon neutrality.

 

Published at edie.net 

8 tips to making your office more eco-friendly

Often, when you think about going green, the immediate consideration is about reducing your carbon emissions. Other quick thoughts may include riding your bike more, using public transportation, being stricter with your recycling, and so on and so forth. But have you ever thought about making your office eco-friendly? There are so many ways of converting your office in to an environmentally friendly one, and here are some tips to help you along the way.

  1. Print only when you must

This is probably a message that you have seen countless times at the end of nearly every mail. However, most people still print out documents more than they should, even when there is absolutely no need to do so. Your best alternative is to use cloud-based storage as it is very easy to save, share and access files on Google Drive. Keep in mind that this will also make you appear much more tech savvy.

  1. Reducing your power bills

With modern technology, you can now purchase energy-saving gadgets which automatically turn off every time you leave the office. Light controllers and instinctive building management systems simplify this task even more. An extra benefit that comes with reducing energy utilisation is the money you can save on power and electricity bills.

  1. Encouraging a greener lifestyle

You should encourage your workers and colleagues to live an eco-friendly way of life that goes beyond the office. Just like any aspect of life, it is very easy to go green when you incorporate the idea into your life compared to a forced change where you commit one little aspect of your routine to it. While switching to an eco-friendly office setting might appear a big challenge at first, you will soon appreciate how rewarding the process can be, both financially and morally.

  1. Create a sustainability team in the office

A sustainability team can help to create more awareness and accomplish other missions in the quest to developing a green office. The team can take up projects such as designing an eco-friendly office refurbishment, starting or facilitating a more efficient recycling program, or being part of purchasing decisions for energy-efficient appliances and safe cleaning supplies.

  1. Start monthly environmental competitions

Monthly team competitions can be an enjoyable way of combining teamwork with creating an environmentally friendly office. For instance, you can challenge the workforce to go one month without driving to work, with the person who lasts the longest receiving a day off or a similar work based incentive.

  1. Bring a desk plant

If you can, conduct some natural office refurbishment and bring a plant into the office to enhance indoor air quality in the office space. Plants can produce more oxygen which offsets any chemicals emitted by new office furniture, making a safer and happier office space for your employees to work in.

  1. Utilise natural light

It is a well-known fact that employees who sit near windows have a higher work rate than those who don’t. Natural light controls your body’s circadian rhythms, digestion, and absorbing vitamin D. However, indoor light can be a major disruptor. During your office refurbishment, you should make sure that you move workstations to within 25 feet of peripheral walls that have windows.

You should rely more on the natural light to save energy. You can also opt to installing a better power strip in the workstation, swapping lighting equipment with LED light, and using timers and sensors for office lighting. This will help you to reduce the energy used and costs on your utility bills.

  1. Switch to energy-saving computers

Starting with new computers that have the Energy Star label is very important. You should then set them to operate as economically as possible. You can also use power-management options in the operating system of your computer. Set the monitor to turn off in cases of inactivity, and set the desktop systems to hibernate at the end of the day when the employees are gone. Smart power management can single-handedly save a lot of energy in the office which is in line with shifting to an environmentally friendly office.

An environmentally friendly office can help breathe new life in to your business on the inside whilst creating a positive reputation for yourselves on the outside. If you’re serious about creating an eco-friendly office, then these tips can set you up perfectly.

 

Author: Carly Chandra – Business Development Manager at Saracen Interiors in London

Sustainable Development Goals – how should businesses act?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are ultimately aimed at “freeing the human race from the tyranny of poverty and healing and securing our planet”, present a supremely ambitious and transformative vision to be pursued and achieved by all sectors of society, including governments, businesses and the public, by 2030.

With very low public awareness, and government action more or less non-existent, progress on achieving the SDG’s within the UK to date has been primarily driven by the private sector. This isn’t particularly surprising given the SDGs have been called the greatest economic opportunity of our time. Forward thinking organisations have finally realised the cost of inaction will ultimately be far greater than action.

But with 17 targets and 169 sub-targets on topics as diverse as gender equality, zero hunger and climate action, if you don’t have a dedicated team working on your sustainability agenda, where do you even begin?

Here’s our four-step process for getting the SDGs off the ground in your business:

  1. Assess the materiality of each SDG to your organisation & align with your existing strategy

The good news is that whilst the SDGs are necessarily far-reaching, it’s likely that not all 17 SDGs are entirely relevant to your organisation.

Take one of our FTSE-listed clients – a recruitment company – as an example; whilst their existing CSR strategy hasn’t been aligned with the SDGs, it already has a keen focus on SDG #5 (gender equality), #8 (decent work and economic growth) and #13 (climate action). Given their sector and existing strategy, these three SDGs are clearly the most material to their organisation and could easily be aligned with their existing strategy.

For some of our other clients, SDGs such as #7 (affordable and clean energy) and #12 (responsible consumption and production) will be clearer areas of focus. Identifying the SDGs which are material, relevant, and upon which your organisation can influence, will allow you to focus your efforts and work efficiently.

 

  1. Demonstrate the business case

Whilst increasingly we are seeing more and more organisations, particularly consumer brands, shift to a purpose led model, where success is measured by more than just share price, the bottom line is that profitability is a key component of long term sustainability.

Conveniently then, its estimated that achieving the SDGs will open up $12 trillion in market opportunities and generate 380 million new jobs by 2030. As the Financial Times put it: “it is a paradox that the most profitable companies are not the most profit-focused”. Time and time again, we see that purpose-led businesses, who act ethically and put consumer expectations at the heart of their business model, outperform profit-driven competitors, where the ends tend to justify the means. Making progress towards the SDGs shouldn’t be seen as an entirely altruistic exercise, the truth is that whilst achieving the SDGs will benefit society, it will also improve your businesses profitability and long term sustainability.

 

  1. Establish buy in at a senior level

In almost every case, the organisations with the best track record in terms of sustainability, tend to be those with passionate and committed leadership who are wholly bought into the concept of sustainable growth.

Think Paul Polman at Unilever, Elon Musk at Tesla or Marc Bolland at M&S. It’s rare that sustainability truly flourishes without strong top down leadership. Establishing support from your businesses leadership, whether that be through highlighting the positives or the likely consequences of not evolving, will be crucial to ensuring that your organisation does more than just pay lip service to the SDGs.

  

  1. Set targets and KPIs to measure your success as a purpose-led business

Whichever SDG you decide to pursue, setting a time bound target and putting the appropriate KPIs in place to track progress is crucial to not losing momentum.

For SDG #13 (climate action), this could be as simple as setting a carbon reduction target (which your organisation may well have anyway), and tracking performance by reporting your carbon footprint annually. On the other hand, the targets and KPIs implemented for other SDGs may require more thought as to what you actually want to achieve as an organisation and what success actually looks like.

Reporting in this manner has various benefits for the organisation, including improved transparency, the generation of positive news stories and creating the incentive for success. Furthermore, this approach compliments a number of existing reporting requirements which large businesses are obliged to undertake anyway, such as reporting GHG emissions (the Companies Act), social, human rights and diversity information (Non-Financial Reporting Directive) and producing an annual slavery and trafficking statement (Modern Slavery Act).

The SDGs represent a unique opportunity for businesses globally. With an increasingly complex regulatory landscape continuing to develop globally, the SDGs offer a broad framework against which organisations can align their medium to long term strategy and reporting with stakeholder expectations whilst driving innovation, future proofing the business model, increasing profitability and ultimately contributing towards sustainable development. When viewed through this lens, the question really becomes why wouldn’t you be acting on the SDGs?

 

To learn more about what the SDGs are and why they were set, read our blog here.