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Why Sustainable Development Goals Should be Part of Business Plans

Why Sustainable Development Goals Should be Part of Business Plans

In 2015, the United Nations (UN) led a process that resulted in the adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The idea behind the initiative is to tackle climate change, end poverty, and fight inequality before the end of 2030. Additionally, the SDGs cover broad challenges including economic inclusion, geopolitical instability and environmental degradation. The agendas were developed based on inputs of businesses, non-profit organizations and academic organizations.

With the SDGs, many companies have begun to recognize that the only way to address the complex sustainability challenges is to scale up their efforts. They need to work and collaborate with peers, governments, sector organizations, customers and non-profit organizations. By including sustainability goals in business plans, companies can play a more pivotal role in the achievement of sustainable development goals, and they may also gain a lot from it.

Sustainability and the Business Case

Companies face different kinds of challenges that limit their potential to grow and excel. This includes scarcity of natural resources, limited local buying power, weak financial markets and the list goes on. As a result of these limitations, it is vital that companies employ business sustainability strategies that can help them create opportunities. This way they can address the four vital facets of businesses, namely growth, capital, purpose and risk. In terms of business growth, the 8th, 9th and 12th Sustainable Development Goals come to play. While these goals are directly concerned with economic growth, sustainable industrialization, employment, innovation and sustainable production, businesses can also take advantage of them by expanding into new markets and attracting talents. By implementing sustainable business practices in your organization you can gain from more resilient communities and have reliable access to natural resources.

Sustainable Development and Addressing Risks

If the financial, natural, and social resources of an organization are eroded elsewhere, it may be unable to continue creating capital. Every goal in the SDGs represents a risk area that is currently posing challenges to businesses. For instance, supply chains are exposed to the effects of climate change and the depletion of natural resources. By adopting sustainable development goals in a business plan, organizations can exacerbate these risks. Another reason companies should consider including SDGs in their business plan is that they may have a direct influence on their investors. Investors now pay close attention to environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks before making an investment decision. Thus, if you own a company, it is vital that you as well as your employees adopt sustainable living practices so as to create competitive advantages related to ESG performance.

Attracting Capital and Focusing on Purpose

In a bid to tackle the developmental challenges in the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals, we expect a redirection of public and private investment flows. This expectation is based on experiences with climate finance and private-sector financial products like green bonds. Organizations that adopt innovative finance models that are geared towards the realization of the SDGs will be better positioned to benefit directly from new sources of capital. Including SDGs in a business plan can help companies focus on a purpose and create shared value for all the stakeholders. This way, they can become a strong driving force for galvanizing stakeholders to a common outcome. By focusing on a purpose that revolves around improving the world, organizations can inspire others, create a compelling brand image, and even increase their opportunity to make profits and create sustainable value.

Actions to Take Towards Sustainable Development Goals

So far, we have pointed out some of the benefits you can enjoy by including SDGs in your business plan. But what are the actions that you need to take? First, companies have to identify how the goals, directly and indirectly, affect their businesses. This way, they can employ a strategic approach to committing these goals and align them with their corporate priorities to make a positive impact.

Develop Targets and KPIs

In addition to identifying and committing to SDGs that aligns with your business priorities, it’s also essential that you develop targets and KPIs. The 17 sustainable development goals are accompanied by 169 specific and global targets. By developing a clear target, organizations will find it easy to monitor their progress and see how SDGs impact their businesses. Besides that, they will be able to easily identify aspects to improve on.

Create Business Opportunities and Collaborate

Another thing that you can do as a business owner to incorporate SDGs into your plans is to create business opportunities. By identifying new business products, services or models that drive towards the achievement of SDGs, new markets and customers will probably emerge. Among the key areas to consider when creating business opportunities are education, underserved geographies as well as sectors related to combating climate change such as energy efficiency. Truth be told, it is almost impossible for a single company to solve all the challenges associated with achieving SDGs. Thus, collaboration is vital, not only within your business sectors but also across different industries. So as a business owner, you should find opportunities to collaborate with peers, suppliers, customers and non-profit organizations. In addition, partner with governments and civil society to deploy needed resources that promotes sustainable living.

Conclusion on Including Sustainable Development Goals in Business Plans

The beauty of SDGs is that it offers a road map for companies to engage with stakeholders and create sustainable strategies that can help transform their businesses positively. By investing and aligning your business plans with this universal framework, you can better your organizational values, employees as well as the global environment. Not to forget the fact that including SDGs in your business plan can also lead to financial profit.

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What is carbon offset?

So what does carbon offset really means? And why has this become such a popular tool when it comes to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions? Let’s look into the concept to get a better understanding of what it means and how it is used.  

Carbon offset – the definition
First things first. Carbon offset is not a new concept. But in the last couple of years it has become an increasingly popular way of taking responsibility for one’s emissions. First, you calculate how much CO2 you want to neutralise. It might be the emissions for a flight for example. Then you buy “offset” for that amount of CO2, meaning you pay to decrease or omit those emissions elsewhere. So instead of making changes that would decrease your own emissions, you pay to reduce emissions elsewhere, where it may be cheaper to do such reductions. There are currently many projects all over the world, with the purpose to reduce CO2 emissions. These projects are financed by people and organisation buying carbon offset.

Is carbon offsetting good or bad?
There have been many discussions about carbon offsetting. There has also been quite a few scandals around the actual offset projects. Some have been mismanaged, others not efficient as carbon sinks and some has even destroyed local environments.

And is carbon offset good for the climate? Some say yes, as we are then decreasing emissions where it makes the most economic sense. Others say no, as the phenomenon makes it seem ok to continue with the emissions here, where we if fact need to rapidly decrease them everywhere.

So what should we then think of carbon offsetting? Our stance, and many with us, is to reduce all the emissions we possibly can ourselves. For the emissions that are still left, it seems reasonably to buy carbon offset – but from certified and monitored carbon offset projects.

We do need to change our behaviours to decrease emissions as rapidly as we must, and carbon offset shouldn’t be a way to avoid of even postpone that important work. But there’s more – when you do those necessary reductions, you’ll see that often you also end up saving som money! Good for you and good for the planet!

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Carbon Footprint – What is it ?

You’ve probably heard about CO2 emissions in relation to climate change before…?  

Well, there is a reason for bringing that up over and over… Simply put, CO2 (carbondioxid or “carbon”) is the most common greenhouse gas emitted by humans – with devastating effects on our climate. Therefore, we need to talk about carbon footprints and how to lower them. It’s essential for our planet and all life on earth! And the latter, we believe, is a pretty good reason.

Carbon footprint – the simple definition
What is the definition of carbon footprint? Well, the carbon footprint of a specific activity equals all the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions created by that activity, converted into carbon dioxide equivalents. This could for instance be the GHG emissions created from a certain product, an organisation or even an individual. For products, the whole life cycle is taken into account everything from getting the materials, creating the product, shipping, using it and handling the waste. The carbon footprint of an individual is a subject well debated. 70% of all global emissions are due to private consumption and changes on the individual level is therefore of great importance for lowering the global carbon emissions. 

When talking about individual change, the carbon footprint is sometimes mixed up with the ecological footprint. Even though the two are closely related (the carbon footprint makes up as much as 60 percent of humanity’s total ecological footprint), the ecological footprint itself consists of other important factors beyond the carbon footprint (water usage, biodiversity impact etc.). 

The Paris Agreement – 2 Degree Target
As climate change is not only a problem for the future, but a present one, everyone around the world needs to engage in true climate action. The Paris Agreement made it clear that each country has a responsibility to lower their respective carbon footprint striving to achieve the “well below 2 degrees” target. This means, among other things, working with and implementing a switch to green energy. But policy makers aren’t solely responsible for taking climate action. Other actors in society, including us individuals, share that responsibility.

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What is the Paris Agreement?

Since the conference of the parties in 2015 which was held in Paris, the term “Paris agreement” has become a global and well-known expression. Let’s take a step back to be able to understand why the Paris agreement, often referred to as the Paris climate accord – L’accord de Paris – is considered to be groundbreaking for humanity and the climate.

COP – the conference of the parties
First thing first, what does COP stand for and what does it really mean? Well, COP is the shortening for The conference of the parties on climate change, a UN convention led by UNFCCC, which was founded in 1994. The first convention was held in 1995 in Berlin and has since then been held every year in different countries all around the world, where all the member states are invited to discuss how to handle the alarming issue of climate change. 

For a longer period than we might think, climate change has been on the global agenda but often without moving forward in the question. This has been an issue during COP. But at COP 25 in Paris, a lot of hard work finally resulted in the now famous and groundbreaking Paris agreement!

The importance of the Paris agreement
The year was 2015 and 196 countries were gathered in Paris to discuss how to tackle climate change and how to collaborate around the very much required emission cuts. There were high hopes to actually agree on a strategy for the climate but there had been disappointments before. 

But this time the 196 countries came together and signed a global agreement to tackle climate change and set the world on the right course. One key success factor was a decision to work with a bottom-up model where each nation would decide for themselves on how to lower their national emissions, instead of a top-down. Common goals were decided, along with them, the well-known 2 degree target keeping global warming well below two degrees above pre-industrialized levels, striving to keep it under 1.5 degree celsius.

But how will this then work you might wonder? Well, it was decided that each nation was to set up their own strategies on how to lower their national emissions to achieve the goal which was to be presented in what is called the nationally determined contributions, NDCs. In addition there would also be a stocktake every fifth year to review the collective progress towards reaching the aim of the agreement and to inform about further measures to be taken on a national level.

So now to the question we all want the answer to – will it work? The Paris agreement is groundbreaking agreement. 196 countries participated, they agreed on a common goal, changed the system and took responsibility both globally and nationally. But of course there is a lot more to do and it will be of great importance that each individual nation take the agreement seriously. Therefore it will be of greatest interest to see where we are in 2023 when the first stocktake is held.

The world is counting on the Paris agreement. Now that we have the tool let us use it in the best way possible to save coming generations and life on earth. 

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