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Five years of UN Sustainable Development Goals

Asking what businesses are doing to help achieve SDG 13: Climate Change, Alex Malouf highlights the need for them to share their plans to inspire others to act quickly, keeping in mind that the deadline – 2030 – for achieving the target of cutting greenhouse gases by 50% is not too far away

| | Sep 28, 2020 | 10:23 am
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Alex Malouf

This may have passed you by, but September 2020 marks an important anniversary for every single person on the planet. Five years ago, the world’s nations gathered at the United Nations to agree on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), drafted by the United Nations. The bold, forward-looking and ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development aimed to promote prosperity and social well-being while protecting the planet.

These Goals, 17 in all, recognise that resolving some of the world’s greatest challenges are the responsibility of all of us, including governments and business. What the SDGs are in essence is the beginning of a shift from business as usual to true sustainable development.

Five years have passed, and much has been achieved. Just take the example of access to energy. Global access to electricity has risen steadily over the years; today, tens of millions more are connected to the grid. This is certainly good news, until you also consider that roughly 10% of the world’s population doesn’t have access to a safe and reliable source of energy. While we have made progress, much, much more must be done if we are serious about achieving a fairer, greener and more prosperous world for all.

What’s heartening is the importance with which countries in the region are approaching sustainable development. Governments here have set ambitious sustainability targets, especially in the area of renewable energy; the UAE Energy Strategy includes a 50% target for clean energy by 2050, while Saudi Arabia is looking to generate over 27GW of clean power by 2023 and over 58GW by 2030.

These are ambitions on which we must build, especially given how much good work has been undone by the pandemic. Take the example of child poverty.  According to UNICEF and Save The Children, globally, the number of children living in poverty has risen by 15% this year, to nearly 1.2 billion, owing to the pandemic.

A decade may seem like a long time, but that time will pass quickly. And organisations the world over need to act with greater vigour and in a structured manner. Organisations that are looking to accelerate their action on energy and sustainability find greater success when they set public goals. There are three reasons for this:

1) Firms that make public commitments are better able to secure funds for their sustainability projects

2) They have a better understanding of how sustainability projects fundamentally improve the business

3) They are able to accelerate action and decision-making

I do believe that setting goals and focusing on reporting sustainable action will become just as important as financial reporting. The two – reporting on sustainability and financial performance – are inter-related. Businesses cannot outperform the market if they’re unsustainable. Conversely, companies that lead on SDG-related issues have simultaneously maintained or accelerated bottom line performance. The data is clear: businesses with strong sustainability policies outperform their peers on conventional financial metrics.

We’re going to be faced with a myriad of challenges over the coming decade. Businesses needs to be ready, not just to adapt but also to work towards achieving the changes that the SDGs promise us all. Take the example of Climate Change, SDG 13. If we are to stabilise the Earth’s temperature, we will have to cut greenhouse gases by 50% by 2030 and also remove a significant amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

What I would ask every business out there is, ‘What are you doing to help us achieve SDG 13?’ And if you have a plan, publish it. Let others know of your commitment, and let’s create a ripple effect, where we motivate others to think about what they intend to do for the SDGs.

This year is a pivotal moment in our history, and it is an instant of time that can influence our future, hopefully for the better. If we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we all must act like our lives depend on them. Because they do.

The writer is Corporate Communications Director MEA, Schneider Electric. He may be contacted at alex.malouf@se.com



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