In September 2015, 193 nations unanimously resolved to implement the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda, comprised of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets for the period 2016-2030 affecting every country in the world in a bid to address extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and to protect the planet.

Critically, these goals weren’t left to governments to initiate – the UN called upon business, corporates and individuals to enact them. Section 67 of the UN resolution called directly to businesses to “apply their creativity and innovation to solving sustainable development challenges” (UN SDG 2015, s 57). As not only the principal engine for economic growth and job creation, but also the principal consumers of natural resources, businesses have a critical role to play in this process. Critically, businesses will develop and deliver many of the new technologies, organisational models, and management systems required. Against this background, business leaders and managers can transform their organisations through the adoption of sustainable solutions.

We help our customers step up to the challenge of the changing relationship between business and society, using the SDGs as a framework within which we work towards achieving ethical and sustainable risk management and opportunity for our customers.[1]

Building on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), drafted in 2000, which focused on reducing poverty, hunger, disease, gender inequality, and ensuring universal access to water and sanitation by 2015, the SDGs are more ambitious and broad-reaching. While the MDGs achieved significant progress (including halving of the global poverty rate 5 years ahead of the 2015 deadline), the SDGs therefore aim to complete the unfinished business of the MDGs, and go further to address the root causes of inequality and to eradicate poverty worldwide. The SDGs are also uniquely universal – they have been negotiated by, and are applicable to, all UN Member States, thus including both developed and developing countries.

The SDGs shape international development efforts by providing national governments with goals around which to frame national policies and budgets. The targets associated with the SDGs also keep Member States accountable to ensure that progress is being made.

Australia currently ranks 26th globally in terms of its performance and progress.[2] In 2016, under the stewardship of the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, 30 prominent Australian CEOs signed their commitment to the SDGs, demonstrating the Australian private sector’s willingness to commit to ongoing sustainable business operations, responsible investment and innovation.[3]

It is clearly in the best interests of businesses to incorporate sustainability considerations into decision-making processes. The bottom line is that social elements are essential.