By Maria Bermudez Pizano
September 25th, 2018 marked the third year anniversary since the establishment of the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. Created to address the most pressing challenges of our time, these goals aim to build a better, sustainable future for everyone. By targeting the areas such as education, health, economic development, and the environment, they create a framework for the nations of the world to advance public policy and organize efforts that will contribute to them.
While the goals themselves are short statements, each is comprised of a series of targets. Similarly, each target has 1 to 3 indicators, which are used to measure progress. For example, for the first SGD, the first target aims to eradicate extreme poverty, and it defines a measurement for that (less than $1.25 a day). For this target, the indicator is the proportion of population below the poverty line. With a total of 169 targets, some consider the goals to be quite ambitious. However, this level of thoroughness targets to solve the root cause of the problem, which is a more sustainable approach.
Why do they matter?
The SDGs are an important statement in policy development because they focus on building a better future for all. They are a roadmap that pinpoints not only the issues we face, but the causes of them. Most importantly, they were created to work in collaboration with one another, recognizing that the different areas of our lives affect one another. They are one of many documents that serve as a compromise of collaboration of countries to achieve a same goal. However, like the Paris Agreement, it is one of few in which almost every country in the world has recognized that these goals are an integral part of building a better future.
Where are we now?
With the goal of achieving the SDGs by 2030, we are only three years into that promise. However, just like with any personal goal, it is important to constantly evaluate the progress that has been made. And according to the results, two of the biggest challenges so far are funding and impact measurement.
Global Policy Watch calculates that it will require around $1 trillion annually to achieve these goals (Rao, 2017). However this is where the private sector has to step up. Nowadays, private investors are interested in using their dollars to support programs and causes like the SDGs, as reported by Impact Shares. In fact, the creation of new stocks to mobilize private capital for social good is already happening, opening new avenues for companies and investors alike.
The second main issue is impact measurement and data collection. With such a large number of targets to keep track of, and taking into consideration economic inequality between countries, progress is difficult measure. This is mainly because of the lack of infrastructure, human capital, or data used to conduct an assessment. Furthermore, the lack of analysis makes it difficult to identify the root cause of each problem, therefore making it more difficult to solve.
How can social enterprise help?
As stated by the Think Global Trade Social report from UK Social Enterprise, this sector of business can provide value in more ways than traditional business can. In a study done in April 2018, researchers David Littlewood and Diane Holt argue that in addition to a final product or service, a social enterprise can contribute to the SGDs throughout its whole value chain, from sourcing to waste management. By sourcing materials from the local population, employing marginalized individuals, or developing new ways of providing clean access to water and sanitation, social enterprises often provide innovative ways in which businesses can align their goals directly with SGDs and provide opportunities for improvement and progress for the bottom of the pyramid.
Furthermore, while impact measurement and data collection is still a hot issue in the field, social enterprises are recognizing the importance of keeping track of their progress and can facilitate data collection in regions where public infrastructure is insufficient. Finally, social enterprise can be an important connection between the public and private sectors, as shown in the SDG Industry Matrix.
Developed by KPMG and UN Global Impact, the matrix is an extensive library of case studies that “showcases industry-specific examples and ideas for corporate action related to the SDGs”. Separated by industry sectors, each Industry Matrix contains a list of standards to follow, opportunities for collaboration, a list of organizations that provide training or certifications that can help your organization better prepare for the goal, as well as examples of companies that have successfully implemented these tools to contribute to the SDGs.
While many of these businesses are not social enterprises, the existence of this comprehensive list of initiatives and organizations show that there are many people who are already working towards these goals. With access to such a vast amount of information, all that’s left to do is reach out and start collaborating!