Get started with the Sustainable Development Goals
So you’re interested in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but don’t know where to start? Well, it can be helpful to think about where you already are. Knowing what you’re currently doing should be reflection on your organisation’s priorities, so is a great starting point. However, it’s important to note here that while understanding the baseline is useful, that it may not drive where you want to go (that’s a whole larger discussion within your organisation and stakeholders).
First off, take stock of what initiatives you already have in this space. Remember sustainability encompasses environmental, social (including cultural) and economic well-being. Don’t just think about now, but also any planned ones for the current budget and even beyond. With each initiative you can potentially link up with one of the goals.
For instance, perhaps you have special bins in your office to segregate waste streams. This means you are reducing waste to landfill through composting organic matter and recycling. You can align that with SDG15: Life on Land.
Or maybe you have invested in an electric fleet vehicle that staff can use for travelling to meetings. By going electric, you reduce the amount of carbon emissions produced by a traditional petrol car. That aligns with SDG13: Climate Action.
A working example is from SKYCITY Auckland. They have instituted a programme to support employees who purchase carbon credits to offset their personal carbon impacts by depositing a matching amount into an internal fund earmarked for emissions reductions projects for the business. Zing, SDG17: Partnerships for the Goals.
Whilst those are some specific actions that can align with the goals, there are likely other, broader ways that your organisation is incorporating sustainability. For your next steps, we recommend you get digging. For some organisations, there can be projects or plans that are built into guiding documents like strategic plans, mission or vision statements and organisational values. Blow the e-dust off some of your organisation’s tomes and consider them with a sustainability lens.
You may not even have to dig too deep to find relevant information. For instance, we are seeing more and more that through procurement policies, companies are asking their suppliers to provide environmental credentials. Christchurch City Council’s procurement policy goes beyond national guidance for public entities and stipulates procurement principles that value environmental enhancement (including water efficiency and waste reduction), social equity (promoting diversity, inclusiveness and access) and more. Incorporating these principles means they’re addressing SDG10: Reducing Inequalities and SDG11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.
Finally, consider what goals mean the most to your industry sector. There may be work by industry associations or peak bodies in sustainability that you need to align with, or could more actively participate in. Perhaps you are in an industry with hazardous substances? Then Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being might be important to you. Some of the questions your business can ask itself are: do you comply with Workplace Health and Safety legislation? Hopefully you already do, so perhaps instead, how do you go beyond that? Is there more sophisticated technology safety gear you could provide to go above and beyond?
An example of industry led change is with APRA AMCOS, New Zealand’s music industry representative body, which recognises their role in a male dominated industry. They have been focussing on improving the representation of women through a number of initiatives and are therefore addressing SDG5: Gender Equality.
We are all well aware of the huge impact of packaging on our environment. Given this, the Packaging Association of New Zealand are working on SDG12: Responsible Consumption and Production. They have aligned their key principles from their Code of Practice to support maximising efficiency of resources and minimising waste.
Hopefully that has got you and your organisation thinking about how you might start addressing the goals. The next steps are looking at completing your materiality assessment; mapping your value chain, consulting stakeholders and road testing.