Take the Sustainable Development Goals seriously

Part of a series of business columns in Danish newspaper Fyens Stiftstidende
Author: Camilla Haustrup Hermansen, Director of Business Development
Published: 23.06.2019

It has almost been four years since the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted as a global framework for sustainable development towards 2030. Nevertheless, it may seem like it has only been a few weeks since sustainability and climate have truly moved into focus in our common consciousness – at least in Denmark.

Whereas climate turned out to be a big topic during the latest Danish election campaign, the SDGs virtually did not have a presence in the political debate. But then something changed. As early as the day after the election, everyone talked about “climate hippies” and the SDGs played the leading role at the Global Goals Live! Event for instance, which is an annual summit of Danish top executives. And last week the SDGs framed the Public Meeting which is attended on the island of Bornholm in June every year.

Still, I think it is thought-provoking how little the SDGs are present in the broad public debate. Especially in view of the fact that the adoption of the SDGs is perhaps one of the most important global decisions made in my lifetime. With the adoption of the SDGs at the UN Summit in New York on September 25th 2015, it was not only the Government of Denmark who received an important and valuable agenda to which it could relate: all governments, states, municipalities, institutions, citizens, societies and, not least, businesses – and their leaders – did so too. “Climate hippies” or not, all of us were given a joint frame of reference for sustainable development, with which we can consider and measure our activities, decisions and actions – both as individuals and as organisations.


Then why do the SDGs not mean more to us? Why do we not talk about how we can realise the vision together? The proposal is in fact crystal clear. After three years of diplomatic efforts, all of the 193 member states of the UN agreed on 17 common goals for more sustainable development. We are not talking about 117 goals. There are only 17 goals, and these are even assembled in a plan. The plan is supplemented by 169 subgoals which serve as a guideline on how the goals can be evaluated. And the goals are aimed at the year 2030, not 2050. Thus, we are talking about ensuring a more sustainable development towards 2030. That should be a relatively foreseeable future for most people.

The SDGs are part of the most ambitious and binding sustainability plan ever formulated. That is why I think that we owe it to each other to get started with the process of fulfilling it. We need to help each other. And we need to cooperate in a focused manner. Enter into partnerships across businesses, industries and sectors. Assess new collaboration models with parties to whom we may not stand close today with our current business models or whom we do not know with regard to our existing ecosystems. I realise that this may sound naïve for many people in business contexts where competitive and market conditions can trip up close, binding partnerships. However, no matter how you look at it, the collective behaviour of companies plays a vital role for evaluating whether we will succeed in fulfilling the SDGs across national borders.

It goes without saying that there can only be room for sustainable products and services in a world which is to accommodate up to 10 billion people. It is now that we need to take initiatives in relation to what the future calls for and actually needs.

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