A Business Context of the SDGs

This article breaks through the typically governmental and policy feel of the SDGs to provide a more relevant business context, so you can understand how to best strategically embed aligned action in your sustainability strategy. 

Firstly, a reminder of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The SDGs were unanimously agreed as a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity by 193 United Nation member states in 2015. They lay out the major areas that nations and all actors in them (that includes individuals and businesses such as us) must collectively focus on to achieve social, environmental and economic prosperity that ‘leaves no one behind’.

Arguably, the communication of the SDGs still have a heavy policy feel to them. It is however critical that impact driven businesses in the private sector step up and engage in working toward the goals that have been laid out.
Luckily this is happening: 

Of 1141 companies analysed, 72% publicly mentioned the SDGs in their reports.

For any company that looking to have wider positive impact or purpose driven, it certainly makes perfect sense to look at these 17 goals and their 196 targets to consider where activities can be meaningfully aligned. What is crucial when doing so, is to not simply focus on the overriding topic, but dig into the specific targets and set company goals in-line with the stated indicators. According to the above study, this is where businesses are falling short, with only 14% specifying objectives at an SDG target level and a mere 1% actually measure their performance against targets.

Slide 3-6 in the following presentation show questions that businesses should be asking themselves when looking to align with the SDGs.


Whilst at a national level these 17 goals must be tackled in unison and with a holistic approach, at a business level it is highly unlikely that one organisation can serve them all. Here is where strategic inward reflection on your purpose, values and ambitions as a company will help you pin-point the areas in which you have the best opportunity to support and prioritise high impact areas.

Finally, it is also very important to take a balanced view, i.e., consider where your company has both negative and positive impact. From there you can forge a strategy to tackle both areas. By taking this risks and opportunities approach, you will enable a more realistic analysis with which to secure the long-term future of your business.


Looking to develop your impact strategy or conduct an initial SDG workshop?

Contact us: hello@higher-order-strategy.com / +49 152 267 85 855

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