How Can Your Business Achieve it’s Sustainability Goals?

Tom Rickey

Tom Rickey

Fresh and natural tree background with a sunny light, shot in the late afternoon while it rains. With the the UN Sustainability goals logo in the middle of the image. Full credit for the image to Luminar Intelligence.
photo credit:

 The team is proud to launch it’s a 6-step guide to the UN sustainability goals, advising your business on how it can meet and be a part of those goals. We’ll discuss how sustainability goals are now becoming accepted and mainstream policy amongst governments, businesses and institutions around the world. We’ll then discuss the United Nations and it’s seventeen sustainability goals.

We’ll go on to discuss how your team and business can participate and develop it’s own sustainability goals. We’ll discuss how these goals can be delivered short and longer-term, and how they can be communicated to your customers. We’ll conclude with offering you a guide to generating these sustainability goals, supported by some useful links and opinions.

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How successfully are the UN sustainability goals being received and acted on? 

It has been years in the making. The importance of sustainability goals and dealing with the climate crisis discussed readily within parts of government, society and our institutions. However, recent months and years have finally found sustainability and associated initiatives urgent work programs in most nations around the world. Withstanding some parts of society global citizens now accept climate action as a necessity rather than an option, many governments no longer asking if but when they should act.

No better example can be seen right now that the United States 46th President, Joe Biden. Joe led a very different campaign to his rival with very different views on climate action and the responsibility of the nation to resolve it. He promised and intends to re-enter the nation back into the Paris Agreement, whilst committing the country to end fossil fuel use for electricity within fifteen years. In Europe, there is consensus amongst most political parties to act, with agencies in the UK such as the CCC and the climate change act (2008)  fulfilling leaders’ commitments to achieve ‘net zero emissions’ by 2050. Which considering one of it’s most recent stories, ‘2020 must be the year of climate year’ should give most of us in the English speaking world some semblance of comfort.

Image of Biden & Trump with a background relating to the green industry
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Governments are acting, but the UN goes further with its sustainability goals

A comfort that our governments are acting and will take strides to end the climate crisis. Better, comfort in the knowledge that organisations like the UN are committing most nations on earth to a timeline of climate action. Many nations who should in turn develop the policies and agencies with the means to act within mutually agreed deadlines, domestically and abroad. The UN goes further than just climate action though, discussing and convincing many to consider and act on the social and wider environmental work that needs to be done in parallel to the agreement. ‘Sustainable Development Goals’.

There are seventeen ‘Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s)’, supported by a roster of one hundred and sixty-nine targets and two hundred and thirty measurements to ensure success can be monitored. The SDG’s cover environmental topics such as Affordable and Clean Energy’, ‘Sustainable Cities and Communities’ and ‘Climate action’. It also covers supporting social programs like ‘Reduced Inequalities’, ‘Gender Equality’ and ‘Ending poverty’. In short, the SDG’s are a set of guidelines for governments, businesses, academia and civil society to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people can enjoy peace and prosperity. A decade of action, with ten years to transform our world by 2030.

Sustainable Development Goals with a chart of all 17 UN sustainable development goals
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Why is the UN so focused on sustainability and establishing such far-reaching goals? 

However, much as it is a mind-blowing undertaking witnessing such progress, the UN arguably does so because it feels it is necessary to get humanity on the right track. In so doing it undoes many of the destructive practises that have become ingrained. As the environmental firebrand, Greta Thunberg said Hope lies in the fact that people don’t know what is going on. If we become aware, then change can happen.” The unique thing about the framework and indeed the very success of global climate action is that no-one is in charge of it. Ultimately it requires more than just governments, businesses and institutions to act, but everyone, each taking personal responsibility to engage and do our bit. 

The best analogy we could think of is to imagine an orchestra without a conductor. Everyone has the sheet music and are all looking at each other for it to work. However, for harmony, the group needs knowledgeable leadership and a collective effort of all to be led to collectively achieve harmony and sound worthy of the many great artists that came before them. As so many can still inspire and reach us emotionally through the arts, as they likely did generations before us, so too can we find balance again with our natural world as our species did long before the industrial era.

Before you are ready to set-up and play you need to pick what instrument and style suits you and your group. We suggest that you start by picking two or three goals you are going to focus on. Perhaps read the seventeen goals and ask yourself. Which ones relate back to your key brand values? What do your customers care most about? What are your company, your team and you most passionate about?

Earth day - Orchestra, image of the orchestra playing with a tree above the players.
photo credit: Beethoven and Mahler from 'Bachtrack'

You can be a part of the goals, Start by reflecting on what you have been doing

Then perhaps take a bit of time to reflect on what you have been doing in the past. This might seem a bit trivial but documenting it helps to define your journey and form your ‘sustainability goals’. For example, have you delivered a recycling scheme at work or changed packaging to use more recycled materials? That means you have then contributed to sustainability goal twelve, which is Responsible consumption and production.’ Have you taken on an apprentice to get a youngster into work? That archives two sustainability goals! Goal four is to provide ‘Quality Education’ or goal eight which is to offer ‘Decent work and Economic growth’. 

Once you have figured out what you have been doing we suggest you make a list of three things you can change (or start to change). Promise yourself to take action on each of these and set yourself a reminder weekly to work on them, reviewing in four weeks. Keep your actions small and smart, until the goals are ingrained in your organisation. Then you can start to accelerate your rate of progress. Perhaps have a think about which partners you might be able to partner with to help you on that journey.

Think SMART and see how your day to day activities could be more sustainable

So, you have taken small steps and you are now reflecting on what has been achieved. What happens next? Try and have a think about the bigger challenges your company needs to face down. Are there any negative impacts your business is generating? Here are a few questions you can ask yourself: 

  • Do you have a large workforce who commute by car to be in the office every day? 
  • Do you engage your local community or support a community virtually? 
  • Who is your current energy provider? Are they offering you zero-carbon energy? 

Shortlist your ideas with your team and plan your long-term sustainability goals. We suggest you ensure they are SMART (Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound). We also suggest you refer back to your aligned goals, seeing if you can incorporate them into your existing story. If not, add them in!

Un sustainability goals chart with the sustainability goals explained
photo credit:

Great! You now have your own long-term sustainability goals. Now share them and what you are doing with your stakeholders and customers. 

So you have been SMART for a number of weeks or months. Now it gets exciting! Having delivered and actively worked on your long-term sustainability goals now it’s time to communicate and get your customers involved. Firstly, it gives your team the credit they deserve and celebrates what you are doing. More than that, with consumers being more eco-conscious and sustainably-minded they are more likely to gravitate to and buy from you. The CGS reporting in its 2019 Retail and Sustainability Survey that two-thirds of respondents now consider sustainability when making a purchase, willing to pay more for sustainable products. 

Secondly, educated consumers make better choices, expecting the same positive thought from your competitors, and across the business world. Thus, making a better industry. Thirdly, the UN goals need maximum exposure so that everyone understands their importance. Here are some communication tips: 

  • Layout your sustainability journey on a timeline 
  • Tell your customers why you are working towards the ‘UN’s Sustainability Goals’ 
  • Tell your customers what they can do to get involved

Don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time or if you need to communicate it over a period of time. Marketers and business owners are often reluctant to start on their sustainability goals and journey so by reading this and starting, you are doing great. As one of our clients put it brilliantly ‘the journey IS the destination with sustainability’ which we think nails it. You can download the ‘6 Step Guide to Kick Start the UN Sustainability Goals for your Business’ using the link below. The guide contains much of what we spoke about here, embellished with additional ideas. 

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