The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) comprise of 17 key targets that outline a set of goals for global development. The SDGs provide a more comprehensive framework for global development with its focus on People, Profit, Planet, Peace and Prosperity.
The SDGs also hallmark an important juncture in the process to achieving global development, by widening the scope for participation among actors across the international arena. The SDGs aim to achieve key targets through collective action from governments, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, corporations and individuals. By establishing a collaborative intergovernmental strategy, the SDGs also present an exciting opportunity for businesses seeking to expand, increase and improve their CSR activities.
The SDGs have gained prominence over time and aligning CSR to ensure its attainment has direct impact on building a strong and loyal customer base. Businesses have commenced the design of policies that aligns their businesses to the SDGs.
It is anticipated that with the awareness creation which is currently ongoing, customers and potential clients are tilting towards organizations committed to the promotion and attainment of the SDGs. Customers who are aware of the effect of SDGs resolve not to do business with organizations whose businesses and activities impact people, profit and planet negatively.
When corporate entities place emphasis on the SDGs through their CSR interventions, it resolves major challenges that communities are faced with. It enhances the relationship that exist between organizations and the communities they operate within as well as governments.
However, multinational companies with global footprints must devise an effective and comprehensive CSR approach cutting across the SDGs for each of the member nations. This will factor the geographical, cultural, traditional needs of each country. The population dynamics will again play a substantial role in the development of such policies.
This may come as a hindrance to its implementation considering the vast cultural diversity and country specific needs amongst others. Each country has a peculiar needs and a way it desires to implement the SDGs. Interestingly the SDGs are essentially universal in nature and can therefore, provide a suitable remedy to such issues.
Corporate organizations should be encouraged to attend to the promotion and attainment of the SDGs. This will ensure accountability and transparency in the various community engagement, awareness creation and execution of projects. The SDGs must be seen as a shared responsibility for all the stakeholders.
Though the SDGs are universally accepted by various governments, their success relies heavily on the action and collaboration with businesses, NGOs, civil society & community based organizations, religious bodies, traditional leaders, youth groups etc.
Corporate organizations should design their CSR strategies in a way that will incorporate the SDGs. The SDGs covers a broad spectrum of issues ranging from climate change, gender inequality and the eradication of poverty. Actually, the bedrock it’s the impact it will have on the three Ps; People, Profit and Planet.
Most businesses cannot impact all the 17 SDGs considering budget constraints. However, a clear focus on; SDG3-Good Health and Wellbeing, SDG4-Quality Education, SDG8-Decent work and Economic Growth, SDG9-Industry Innovation and Infrastructure, SDG13-Climate Action will impact greatly all the other SDGs. This is also not to say that some direct interventions cannot be made on the other SDGs simultaneously.
There are some organizations whose work will not affect the environment directly but activities of some of their customers will have negative impact on nature. Example is a financial institution whose client is into the production of tobacco or massive production of plastics. The effect of plastics waste on SDG6-Clean Water and Sanitation, SDG14-Life Below Water and SGD15-Life on Land cannot be overlooked.
It is impressive to note that there is huge passion for the attainment of the goals among corporate entities, however, few companies are yet to commit to full implementation of all 17 goals. Organizations have demonstrated their commitment as good social citizens through their numerous and impactful CSR interventions.
We have seen the construction of schools, hospitals, provision of water amongst others. All these are aimed at ensuring that people live decent and fulfilling lives whiles protecting the environment. Governments and the relevant state institutions must lead this all important agenda by designing a framework that will encourage companies to do more.
This can be done through, import and export duty waivers or reduction, tax holidays and exemptions to companies who are commitment to promote the SDGs. No withholding tax on dividends, reliefs from double taxation, free repatriation of dividends and profit amongst others can be special concession that can be agreed upon to the mutual benefit of all the stakeholders in the quest to promote the SDGs.
Other incentives can be in the form of securing the needed permits including work/resident permits from related state agencies. Companies can be provided with logistics like serviced plots with utilities for the running of smooth business operation as well as import duty exemptions on raw materials.
Again, motivation can be offered in the form of waiver fees for technology transfer and a guarantee against nationalization and expropriation. In other parts of the African Continent we have experienced action where the state has taken over properties from its original or rightful owners for public use or benefit. Such actions of dispossessing foreign companies of their investment serves as a major setback in the promotion and attainment of the SDGs.
Government can lead the discussion since it has a general and better overview of how it wants these SDGs implemented. Government through the SDG advisory unit can outline specific and direct focus areas for companies to choose from. This is underpinned by the flexibility it offers the corporate entities considering their business strategy.
A selective application of the implementation of the SDGs will help promote the needs of the company since it will be built around its corporate vision and strategies. Again, the 17 goals may not demand the same attention due to the fact that some of the goals have received some improvement whiles other goals may not apply to our current situation and may only need an enactment of laws.
A short term strategy around the most pressing goals should be aligned to the already existing CSR innovations This is a useful way for companies to make the transition, paving the way for a longer-term approach through which they commit holistically to all 17 SDGs.
Intervention and regulation by government will addresses the long held notion that targeted application of the SDGs is insincere and self-interested PR crusade instead of seeing it as a genuine reflection of the promotion and attainment of the SDGs. Anything short of this will poses a major threat to the sustainability of these companies, its investments, human resources and amongst others and position them as businesses who are only interested in maximizing profit.
This approach will offer government the suppleness to focus on other equally issues confronting the nations especially considering governments limited financial resources. It will fast track the achievement of the goals whiles we build a sustainable future. SDG17 which promotes partnership for the goals would have been realized sine government cannot do it alone.