UN’s Global Goals require that we all make a difference

Part of a series of business columns in Danish newspaper Fyens Stiftstidende
Author: Camilla Haustrup Hermansen, Director of Business Development
Published: 10.03.2019

In 2015, all the state- and government leaders in the world came together to adopt the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, which are to create the framework for sustainable development towards 2030. The goal is that we all make a difference and contribute to a more sustainable world. This particularly applies to companies, because they can help set the pace which is needed for the development to gain momentum. This requires more visionary leadership.

Professor Steen Hildebrandt, member of the Advisory Board of the SDGs in Odense, has stated that the 17 SDGs is the greatest managerial challenge to ever exist. I think he is right. The SDGs offer companies the greatest opportunity to make a sustainable difference in the world. However, they also present business challenges at the same time: how can we convert the SDGs into action? And how do we know if the value the company creates will benefit the SDGs?

It goes without saying that the implementation of the SDGs requires global commitment and a strong drive for change. For many companies this means new, unconventional collaborations about innovation in unprecedented strategic partnerships – perhaps even new business models. It also places demands on the management for a new view on growth and value creation which should no longer be measured solely by the company’s financial key figures, but also by actual sustainable change viewed in a larger societal context.

For me, the SDGs contain clear, ethical and moral messages to which one on the one hand can decide to relate to both creatively and constructively, thereby supporting a more sustainable development. On the other hand, you can also choose to do nothing. You can ignore the agenda which the SDGs constitute, thereby working against the goals. I have met managers, directors, business owners and board members from either side. However, one thing is certain if the companies are to contribute to a more sustainable future: many more must take a bigger social responsibility and actively work together to fulfil one or more of the 17 SDGs and their 169 subgoals.

It starts with a personal choice – also for the company’s management. Because at the end of the day, it is people who manage companies, and not companies who manage people. And yes, it requires courage to engage in a transformative, social agenda as large as the SDGs, which goes a long way over the company’s budgetary period and operational focus. It also requires ambition, and perhaps even a change of one’s own persuasions both as a human being and as a manager. The SDGs are not only about the external, environmental challenges in society. They are also about internal, attitudinal issues. They are about the way we think, and the way we behave, manage and make decisions as human beings – every single day. Therefore, the questions every leader should ask him- or herself today are: Do I believe in the vision which the SDGs contain? And: What can I do myself? The answers will be crucial for the company’s development in the future.

My background is Plus Pack, which develops, produces and sells food packaging to countries all over the world. Sustainability has been part of the company DNA since its foundation in 1914. My great-grandfather, N.J. Haustrup, started “Haustrups Fabriker” with the motto: The drive to make a difference. It originated from the desire to create positive development for the benefit of employees, customers and the local community. It was created more than 100 years ago, but the words never won greater resonance than they do today. It is a fact that the right packaging protects food and reduces food waste. Therefore, innovative and sustainable packaging can play a key role in assuring a more sustainable future. This is why today, Plus Pack is an SDG #12 company who works determinedly with the 12th goal: “Responsible Consumption and Production”.

Previously, packaging companies could be less concerned about what happens with the packaging after use. That time is long gone. Today we focus on developing packaging that can be easily recycled, thus supporting a circular economy. But there is more to it than that. As the management team of Plus Pack, we have formed an ambitious vision for our work with sustainability towards 2030. We want to deliver 100% recyclable packaging solutions with zero CO2 emissions. The vision forces us to think outside the box and in new, innovative solutions.

Is this an easy task? No. Do we know today what is needed to fulfil this vision? No. If we knew every step on the road, then we would already know the solutions. We don’t. But that is exactly what the SDGs are all about. They offer us a completely new framework for thinking sustainability. Now, it is on each individual to do something to help implement them and assure a more sustainable world. In other words: You need to have the drive to make a difference – and the sooner you do something, the better.

The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals:

Goal #1: No Poverty.
Goal #2:  Zero Hunger.
Goal #3:  Good Health and Well-Being.
Goal #4:  Quality Education.
Goal #5:  Gender Equality.
Goal #6: Clean Water and Sanitation.
Goal #7: Affordable and Clean Energy.
Goal #8: Decent Work and Economic Growth.
Goal #9:  Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.
Goal #10: Reduced Inequalities.
Goal #11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.
Goal #12: Responsible Production and Consumption.
Goal #13. Climate Action.
Goal #14: Life Below Water.
Goal #15: Life On Land.
Goal #16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
Goal #17: Partnerships for the Goals.