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UN Sustainable Development Goals create opportunity

Last year, we joined 9,000 companies in signing the UN Global Compact to align our strategy and operations with universal principles on human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption, and take actions that advance societal goals. This collective effort is a way for businesses to take shared responsibility in creating a healthier world. 

As part of the joining the Compact, we support the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as outlined by the organization. The Goals, adopted by all 193 UN member states in 2015, provide a framework to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and protect our planet over the next 15 years. If businesses, NGOs and governments come together to collectively advance the SDGs, we increase the chances of a sustainable future for all.

According to recent research, sustainable business models could open economic opportunities worth at least $12 trillion and up to 380 million jobs by 2030.

As we look across the global marketplace, consider, for example, KPMG’s recent research on how new regulation requiring reporting and transparency on sustainability is surging globally, and how within KPMG’s business they are capturing new growth opportunities, such as helping clients measure and manage their dependencies on natural capital: “KPMG is helping companies and clients begin to answer questions around how exposed they are to natural capital or resource scarcity issues. Believe it or not, in the last 9 to 12 months, the terms “natural capital” together with “valuation” have become much more prevalent in mainstream hallway discussions in our profession, and within emerging research,” explained Dr. Stephanie Hime, natural capital specialist.

Or consider the many investor approaches to new business models around sustainability, such as the white paper UBS recently launched that set out a blueprint for channelling private wealth into the SDGs, or the extraordinary work going on with Vanguard, BlackRock, State Street, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Breckinridge Capital Advisors, and many more to encourage long-termism and sustainable business models in global corporations. Another new report documents how the largest US companies are capturing business value while addressing climate change, with over 190 of the Fortune 500 adopting climate targets.

One more leader, Xcel Energy, is one of the largest utilities in the United States and a top 200 emitter of greenhouse gas. Businesses like theirs are at the center of the solution to SDG 13, Climate Action, and they have looked at their regulatory, environmental and reputational risk, and are seizing the opportunity which comes with sustainability. Jack Ihle, Director of Environmental Policy at Xcel Energy, shared, “Our strategy focuses in three key areas: increasing the use of wind and solar power, transitioning the traditional plant fleet, and providing customers with renewable and energy-saving solutions. Reducing carbon dioxide emissions is a primary driver. We’re on track now to reduce emissions by 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2021.” Thomson Reuters next report on emissions from the top 100 global emitters like Xcel Energy, launching in mid-May, will create new transparency around the leadership opportunity for companies like these.

This is an opportunity for us all to come together as a global community to build a sustainable future for the next generation.

Ask yourself, What shadow do you cast? What shadow does your business cast? Are there opportunities for greater positive action? 

We can all lead this initiative to increase awareness and promote responsible business practices. Together, we can unleash new economic potential, enhance corporate reputation, draw in new talent and create a new green market. At the end of the day, committing to leadership in this area is the responsible thing to do.

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