Sustainability Made Easy
Utilizing the Sustainable Development Goals to Guide Business
Guest Blog by Maquelle T. Drummond
P3 Utah Ballard Center Summer 2021 Intern
Part 2 of 3
Where the Triple Bottom Line Comes In
Where should impact lie for a business? Impact exists in what is known as the triple bottom line. The triple bottom line is simple in its aims: people, planet, and profit. Despite the simplicity of this notion, the magnitude of its focus is broad and boundless in nature. A non-profit based in Utah has identified how businesses ought to address the triple bottom line in their operations.
As P3 Utah’s Sustainability Matrix displays, a company does not reach full impact when sustainability efforts are implemented outside the organization. Correspondingly, that business cannot replace a few gears within its operations to conduct change. Both inward and outward approaches are necessary drivers of development. In fact, a recent study found that enlisting internal employees to understand and adopt company-wide sustainability initiatives expands volunteering in the local communities where the business operates. Local partnerships with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are strengthened, and the employees become advocates for change at work and off the clock. Thus, a company’s inward impacts strengthen its outward impacts and vice versa.
After an organization gains its footing in understanding the triple bottom line and where impact should lie, the organization must find a direction in which it can employ its CSR strategy. No better action plan exists for the corporate world than the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Sustainable Development Goals
The year 2015 marked the inauguration of the Sustainable Development Goals; seventeen ambitious goals enacted by the United Nations and signed by the governments of 193 UN member countries, as a “plan of action for people, planet and prosperity”, which “seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom”. The plan evolved from a previously established set of benchmarks designed to meet the poorest of humanity. Although the benchmarks reflected decades’ worth of humanitarian work and were good initiatives, they were not sufficient in scope to capture the holistic vision of the society towards which the UN hopes to be moving. In the coming decades, the world needs sustainable development. Thus, the Sustainable Development Goals were born and set in action.
As is evident from the graphic, the SDGs are an all-encompassing stride across multiple sectors, something of a blueprint for the success of human beings and our planet. An extraordinary element of the SDGs is their call to all actors to become a driving force for sustainable development.
Previously, leaders of the corporate world have felt little to no responsibility to act upon the goals, as they believe that doing so and adopting the goals into their business practices would be encroaching on government territory. Yet, even just a glance over the titles of each goal tells a different story; these are goals for humanity. Whether businesses are conscious of the targets of each goal, their operations directly affect the progress or the hindrance of at least one goal.
The Business and Sustainable Development Commission of the UN informs us of two notable benefits businesses seize when adopting the SDGs. First, “they offer a compelling growth strategy for individual businesses, for business generally, and for the world economy. Second, the Global Goals really need business: unless private companies seize the market opportunities they open up and advance progress on the whole Global Goals package, the abundance they offer won’t materialize.” As we explore these two unique offerings of the SDGs to businesses, we discover a treasure trove of tools and opportunities for businesses and the world.