Australian SDGs Hub for Business

In September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – 17 global goals which lay out a path to 2030 to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and protect the planet.

The SDGs apply to all countries at all stages of development, including Australia.

While the SDGs are applicable to governments, there is a clear role for business and private sector action will be key to the success of each goal – through responsible business operations, new business models, investment, innovation and technology, and collaboration.

This Australian SDGs Hub for Business is intended as a resource for businesses looking to engage with and contribute to the SDGs. It is meant as a ‘living’ resource, to be updated and improved over time, and content suggestions are welcome (secretariat@unglobalcompact.org.au).

[Click on the SDG icons below to explore the Hub.]

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SDGs Explained for Business

What are the SDGs?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (sometimes referred to as the Global Goals) are a set of 17 universal goals applicable to all countries at all stages of development. They lay out a path to 2030 to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and protect the planet, and provide a framework for global and local sustainable development efforts.

The SDGs were agreed by UN member states in September 2015 and came into effect 1 January 2016. They follow and build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were agreed by governments in 2001 and expired in December 2015.

The SDGs are part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (the 2030 Agenda) – the globally agreed, long-term roadmap for development – which comprises the SDGs as well as the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development.

What is the role of business in the SDG agenda?

While the scale and scope of the SDGs is unprecedented, the fundamental ways that business can contribute remain unchanged. In particular, the UN Global Compact asks companies to first do business responsibly and then pursue opportunities to solve societal challenges through business innovation and collaboration.

Act Responsibly + Find Opportunity

In the rush to transform business models and systems for the future, integrity and values will have a huge role to play. For companies wanting to advance the SDG agenda, the job starts by acting responsibly – incorporating the UN Global Compact’s Ten Principles widely into strategies and operations, and understanding that good practices or innovation in one area cannot make up for doing harm in another.
In addition to this, global challenges – ranging from climate, water and food crises, to poverty, conflict and inequality – need solutions that the private sector can deliver.

What is the business case for engaging with the SDGs?

There is a strong business case for understanding and engaging with the SDGs.
Key elements of the business case include (drawn from the SDG Compass):
 

  1. Identifying future business opportunities. The SDGs aim to redirect global public and private investment flows towards the challenges they represent. ln doing so, they define growing markets for companies that can deliver innovative solutions and transformative change.
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  3. Enhancing the value of corporate sustainability. While the business case for corporate sustainability is already well established, the SDGs may for example strengthen the economic incentives for sustainability as externalities becoming increasingly internalised.
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  5. Strengthening stakeholder relations and keeping pace with policy developments. The SDGs reflect stakeholder expectations as well as future policy direct at the international, national and regional levels. Companies that align their priorities with the SDGs can strengthen engagement of customers, employees, civil society and other stakeholders, and those that don’t will be exposed to growing legal and reputational risks. DFAT states that the SDGs are well-aligned with Australian Government policy domestically and internationally. Other Australian stakeholder groups are also engaged with the SDGs including civil society, academia and youth.
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  7. Stabilising societies and markets. Business cannot succeed in societies that fail. Investing in the achievement of the SDGs supports pillars of business success, including the existence of rules-based markets, transparent financial systems, and non-corrupt and well-governed institutions.
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  9. Using a common language and shared purpose. The SDGs define a common framework of action and language that will help companies communicate more consistently and effectively with stakeholders about their impact and performance. The SDGs will help bring together synergistic partners to address the world’s most urgent societal challenges.

 
Further, the SDGs cover a broad range of issues relevant to companies – from poverty and inequality, to climate change – and engaging with the SDG agenda can help companies understand and link their strategies with global priorities.

Where does our company start?

A key tool to help you get started is the SDG Compass.

You can also join the Global Compact Network Australia to access activities, resources and support. In Australia, the GCNA’s Sustainable Development Leadership Group is actively assisting Australian businesses and other stakeholders to realise the potential of private sector contributions to the SDGs.

Acknowledgement

The GCNA has been able to develop this Hub through the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.