It is Martin Luther King Jr. who said that the time is always right to do what is right. In this light, all the countries in the world have, made conscious efforts to come up with solutions to the problems such as poverty, deadly diseases, illiteracy, health constraints, climate change, high mortality rates etc. that face a large percentage of the world’s population. The countries adopted a blueprint which led to great transformation in the aforementioned areas in the last 15 years. Adopted in 2000, the successful 15-year era of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) came to an end at the close of last year, shifting focus to a set of 17 goals adopted in September 2015-The Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs). The MDGs were a set of social aspirations aimed at eliminating extreme poverty and hunger, preventing deadly but treatable diseases, and expanding educational opportunities to all children among others.
The Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the 2030 agenda, are more diverse and legitimized enterprises signed by 195 countries to run for the next 15 years while building on the success of the MDGs. The goals are aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all. The adoption of these goals was necessitated by the need to finish the job of ending hunger, achieving gender equality, enabling children to end illiteracy by enrolling in schools as well as improving health services. The success of the agenda will be seen if all the countries are able to promote peace, create better jobs and tackle the problem of climate change.
While world leaders and governments could be seen as the parties responsible for the implementation of SDGs, much success will not be realized as most governments rarely have goals spanning more than two terms in office. Governments more or less operate with the next election in mind. Why then should the private sector care? SDGs make business sense and that’s why corporates have the greater role to play. By using their businesses to push for the implementation of SDGs, corporates will accelerate their attainment.
Organizations which embrace the SDG agenda will be able to drive their business strategies, innovation and investment decisions. Adopting better operational performance goes beyond the PR antics of social responsibility by organizations and tackling the unexploited areas of health, education, energy decent work among others. It is impossible for firms to realize success while their environment is failing. Businesses do not operate in isolation and thus if they contribute to the depletion of this planet, then they will suffer the consequences in equal measure. To have a strong, functioning business, organizations need to take care of poverty, inequality and climate change as well as adopt better business models, in-house practices, gender inclusivity, youth empowerment and acceptable social conduct.
This morning, leading telco in Kenya, Safaricom, launched its own SDG integration campaign at an SDG forum graced by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development(UNCTAD) Secretary General, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi. He noted that the SDGs present an opportunity for business-led solutions and technologies to address the world’s biggest sustainable development challenges. Businesses which will engage actively in the goal on climate action will reap higher returns on investment according to the Global Climate Change Report of 2015. By integrating the SDGs into its agenda, Safaricom will have a platform where it can pursue opportunity and innovation and new business opportunities.
Businesses should steer the sustainability agenda which will in turn improve the environment for doing business and developing new markets. Sustainability is a collective responsibility where different stakeholders should take part in.