Sustainable Development Goals

Why the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Matter to Business

The world is increasingly embracing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. Although this project began as a way for each government to streamline their efforts towards a healthier and more equitable world, businesses are also prioritizing contributing to the 17 goals.

In September 2019, Morgan Stanley released its Sustainable Signals survey, which found that 50% of individual business investors are taking part in at least one sustainable investment. However, gaining investors isn’t the only benefit to getting on board with the UN SDGs. Below are the reasons smarter businesses are acting on sustainability.

What are the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs)?

First, the definition of SDGs: The UN Sustainable Development Goals are the global objectives adopted by the member states of the United Nations with the purpose of creating a planet that is peaceful and prosperous by 2030. There are 17 integrated SDGs that pledge to “Leave No One Behind.” This pledge ensures that those most in need are prioritized in terms of receiving support.

Why the business world should care about the UN SDGs

SDGs connect companies to the larger conversation
The SDGs are a multi-stakeholder collaboration. This means that it does not only involve UN agencies and member states, but it also thrives on partnerships across sectors including civil society, and of course, business. This helps “attack” the problems such as poverty, hunger, and inequality from multiple angles.

When it comes to the role of the private sector in contributing to the SDGs, traditional approaches continue to be welcomed. These include: philanthropic activities, cash and in-kind contributions, social investment, etc.

However, it is also important for businesses to work with stakeholders outside their sector. This can be done through initiatives such as: job creation, investing in key locations that need to be developed (sustainably), and providing services for the community.

SDGs encourage innovation
Smarter businesses know to stay ahead of trends. Even better than being early adopters is to be the ones who come up with solutions. To do this, they must innovate.

Keeping the SDGs in mind, companies have fertile ground to nurture innovations. Examples for the kinds of solutions that businesses can provide in order to contribute to the SDGs include: improving internet quality in rural areas, creating logistical models that improve access to life-sustaining services, helping small businesses improve their productivity.

These innovations help the community while making businesses leaders in their industry.

SDGs amplify businesses’ giving-back culture
Companies who value social good can, through involvement with the SDGs, amplify the message of their giving-back strategy to the world. Because the SDGs are increasingly becoming a common language to discuss ways of benefiting communities, businesses who identify SDGs relevant to their philanthropy, volunteer work, company culture, etc., will be able to communicate their values to a wider audience.


This is the first in an ongoing series of how businesses can harness their resources and skills to contribute to, and benefit from, the UN SDGs.

Cover Photo by Asantha Abeysooriya