Achieving the Global Goals – A challenge for business too?

Achieving the Global Goals – A challenge for business too?

What would you class as a privilege? To be best man or bridesmaid at your friend’s wedding? Your education? For me, well it was witnessing a pivotal point in our history, being present at the UN General Assembly when the gavel came down, striking wood to declare the SDGs are ratified, the journey has begun. It gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.

But do you know what? Something happened on that same day that made me realise the power and force for good of our youth, our future business leaders. When Malala stood up to address the UNGA, she spoke from the back of the auditorium. With everyone’s back turned to her, she asked us all to turn around to face her. Her message was clear – you may think we are behind you and can be ignored, but we are here and we are watching you. Her impact was impressive.

The impact of business is impressive too. Sometimes for the good of our planet and people, sometimes to their detriment. Engaging business with the Global Goals and bringing clarity to how its activities impact upon so many major issues that need to be addressed with rapidity, should be a considerable force to be reckoned with.

There is real appetite amongst business too to step up and accept the challenge. Ahead of the launch, 92% are aware of the Global Goals (compared to only 33% of citizens) and 71% are already planning what to do. Which is good to see as citizens are expecting great things. Our research results show they expect business to apply SDG thinking to their core business activity, with less emphasis on peripheral projects or reporting. 50% expect business to embed the Global Goals into its strategy and the way it does business.

But at the moment, business lacks the tools to really assess its impact let alone make the required changes. So will consumers grow impatient with businesses that don’t engage or don’t engage fast enough? This could be a distinct possibility. Firstly, tools seem thin on the ground with only 13% of businesses having identified what they need to assess their impact. Worryingly, this only increases to 30% over the next five years. Secondly, only 29% are setting goals or even preparing to set them – again this is a concern as, in the business world, a lack of objectives and targets equates to a lack of accountability and commitment. Business will need to watch out that a lack of visible or communicated engagement doesn’t become a reputational issue.

So how can we catalyse action? The aim of the Global Goals targets the mechanics at the core of business. It’s about reviewing fundamental business activities to understand where they help or hinder governments achieve the global goals, and doing something to remove or reduce the negative impacts, and build upon the positive ones. This will take strong leadership and a tone from the top that needs to overcome investor pressure for short term returns – totally at odds with the SDGs which aim to fix long term planning to fix long term problems.

We see the Global Goals Commonwealth Sustainable Business Challenge as a way to support business to cut through this, a way to get them started, to cut through the complexity, and to raise awareness in the wider business community that times are changing. In partnership with the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, PwC is delighted to sponsor the challenge. It throws down the gauntlet to business to have a robust Board level conversation about the Global Goals and commit to an action plan. Find out more about the Challenge.

I’m sure more initiatives like this will follow. We believe that the Global Goals are a game changer for the planet. But only if the business community seizes the opportunity and engages … governments, NGOs and society can only do so much, but it will take a united effort with business on board as well for the goals to be achieved. So, if you’re working, find out how you’re organisation is engaging with the Global Goals. If not, one day you will be! These Global Goals run through to 2030 by which time you could be in a position of influence and leadership. The Global Goals will be as important to achieve then as they are now, so whether you decide to run your own business or work for another, think about the impact your business has on achieving the global goals and encourage strategic decision making with them in mind.

PwC is one of the key AIESEC corporate partners that will join The Youth Action Summit, hosted on 9-11 December 2015 at The United National Headquarters in New York. Nora Wu, Global Human Capital Leader at PwC, will address the audience to outline how PwC activities support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This three-day event will bring together top young leaders, experts, governments, business and thought leaders to discuss and generate actionable ideas which tackle global youth issues and contribute towards the implementation of the SDGs.

The event will feature high-level speakers and guests amongst whom are: Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ahmad Alhendawi United Nations Envoy on Youth, Sergio Fernandez de Cordova, Chairman and Co-founder of PVBLIC Foundation, Matt Bird, President 1800 PR

– By Malcolm Preston, Global Sustainability Leader, PwC

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