The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were developed in response to the need to continue on the path set by the Millennium Development Goals. Created by two revolutionary women, the founders believed that the blueprint put forwards by the SDGs would correct some of the failures of the business world by offering resources and opportunities to atypical actors in an attempt to adhere to evolving sustainability requirements and eco-friendly innovation. Since their creation in 2015, SDGs have operated as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and create opportunities for advancement and prosperity by 2030.
What are the SDGs?
Goal 1: No Poverty. We must challenge the idea that poverty is inevitable and empower entrepreneurs and small businesses to lead the way in eliminating it. This SDG pushes for the elimination of extreme poverty and the implementation of social protection systems.
Goal 2: Zero Hunger. This SDG targets food insecurity and malnourishment, recognizing that they play a pivotal role in maintaining inequality and underdevelopment. We must invest in better nutrition and more sustainable food production and distribution systems.
Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being. Prioritizing the health and well-being of everyone of all ages is the main goal of this SDG. This includes universal healthcare and addressing maternal mortality and preventable deaths.
Goal 4: Quality Education. Ensuring inclusive educational options and lifelong learning opportunities is a primary goal of the SDGs, and some of the most effective measures include working towards universal literacy and expanded primary school access.
Goal 5: Gender Equality. One of the easiest ways to see a dramatic improvement in production and consumption is to remove the barriers that female employees face. Half of the labor force has been underappreciated and underutilized for decades, so fostering a culture that empowers women has had dramatically successful results.
Goal 6: Clean Water & Sanitation. On top of the moral need for businesses to meet the basic human needs of their employees and customers, as we have seen throughout 2020, access to clean water and sanitation is a crucial public health right for the basic functionality of the business world. It also exacerbates racial and gendered inequalities, and therefore, in overcoming this inaccess we can concurrently heal these connected inequities.
Goal 7: Affordable & Clean Energy. One of the most disruptive and consequential changes in production and consumption will be the transition from fossil fuels to renewables. Investing in affordable, clean energy will soon become a basic pre-requisite for any aspiring small business or entrepreneur.
Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. The challenges we face and the solutions necessary to combat them will require massive investments and enormous human labor power. Ensuring that we create safe, sustainable working conditions that drive sustainable economic growth is the only way to ensure long term success.
Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure. There will be a dire need for investment and advancement in all sectors, but industry and infrastructure are some of the most important. Sustainable methods of production and transportation will be critical foundations for building the rest of a sustainable, just economy.
Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities. Inequalities impact every facet of our economy. Reducing them will increase productivity, wealth, and overall happiness. Lifting those who have traditionally been trodden upon is a necessary part of our transformation into a modern and sustainable economy
Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. Creating sustainable cities and communities will make it easier for the rest of the economy tp transition as well. Investing in sustainable homes and forms of education and socialization will create a more seamless transition from sustainable citizen to sustainable entrepreneur.
Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. Another way to create a self-reinforcing, sustainable ecosystem is to encourage responsible consumption and production.
Goal 13: Climate Action. This goal is to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related disasters while building up mechanisms to raise capacity for planning and management.
Goal 14: Life Below Water. Created to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development. One of the most urgent targets for this SDG is ending overfishing and establishing sustainable fishing practices.
Goal 15: Life on Land. The main target for this SDG is the sustainable management of forests. Combat desertification and halt biodiversity loss.
Goal 16: Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions. This SDG recognizes the pivotal role that peaceful societies and strong institutions have on the economy and the people’s success and prosperity. Investing in sustainable institutions that will maintain this stability is paramount.
Goal 17: Partnerships. None of these goals can be established without a robust, global partnership. We must invest and cultivate a trusting, sustainable relationship with each other in order to succeed.
The Global Transition
The future of business is truly global. We have journeyed too far and forged too many connections to turn back now. There is so much potential for truly transformative change, and we must be ambitious in meeting the moment. These goals put forwards by the SDGs are not small, and the problems we face aren’t either. Because of this, solutions must come from the largest and most promising sectors of the business world. MSMEs represent the best of these sectors. They mirror both the foundations of society and are represented by a group of entrepreneurs that have sprung from a foundation of resilience and adaptability. By empowering and capturing this community, which means over 70% of the global economy, we will be able to generate sustainable solutions while laying the foundation for a long-term, equitable and just society.
Where We Go From Here
By creating a global set of development goals, the hope is those small businesses, entrepreneurs, and investors use the outline put forwards by the SDGs to empower individuals, communities, and ideas that have traditionally been left behind by the market. This can be accomplished by eliminating traditional barriers like racial and gender inequality to investments in renewable and sustainable infrastructure, production, and consumption. The SDGs purpose is not to lay out a rigid plan of change that must be followed precisely. Instead, the SDGs are meant to empower small businesses and entrepreneurs with a blueprint to apply to their contexts. Small and medium enterprises’ growth is the only way to achieve these solutions at the scale required to change things. We believe that creating and sharing resources centered around sustainable business investment and entrepreneurship as we do here at ICSB, is crucial for the successful development and implementation of business practices and norms that will succeed and thrive in an ever-changing world.