Open letter to the Prime Minister to support the SDGs

 

UKSSD (UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development) is coordinating an open letter to the Prime Minister in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is an opportunity for your company to publicly show its support for achieving the SDGs in the UK alongside other leading business voices.

 

UKSSD is calling on the UK Government to show active leadership on the implementation of the SDGs both at home and overseas. To this end UKSSD is facilitating an open letter from UK businesses to encourage the Prime Minister to take action on SDGs in the UK.

 

UKSSD will place the letter as a full-page advert in a national broadsheet on Monday 16th January to coincide with the start of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos (17-20th January).

 

The text for the letter can be found below, as can a Q&A providing you with further information. You will see that the letter has been written by and on behalf of UK companies, explaining that the SDGs are important to the future UK economy and asking the PM to commit to delivering the SDGs domestically as well as internationally.

 

The Davos conference is only a few weeks away and UKSSD would like to complete the design of the ad, including the logos of participating companies, before Christmas. If you would like to support the letter, UKSSD needs your agreement to use your logo, and a copy of the logo itself, by Friday 6th January. Please send your logo to chair@ukssd.co.uk to confirm your involvement.

 

Letter copy

Title: Sustainable development is good for UK business

 

Dear Prime Minister,

 

As a group of businesses investing in making our economy fit for the future, we support sustainable development in the UK. This is essential for our long-term prosperity and the wellbeing of generations to come.

 

The UK Government played a leading role in developing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and adopted them just over a year ago. As businesses, we’re ready to take responsibility and work with the Government to make sure the SDGs are delivered in the UK and around the world.

 

Sustainable development will create jobs, increase competitiveness and secure the natural resources our economy relies on.

 

We call on your Government to:

  • Demonstrate to business your commitment to deliver the SDGs in the UK
  • Work with businesses to deliver the SDGs, creating a transparent reporting framework and clear benchmarks
  • Require all departments, not only the Department for International Development, to work with business and other stakeholders to develop an SDG delivery plan

 

Together we can build a fairer, sustainable and more prosperous Britain.

 

Yours sincerely,

[Company logos will appear here]

 

Q&A

What do I need to do now?

If your company would like to support the letter, please confirm as soon as possible and no later than Friday 6th January. Please send your logo to chair@ukssd.co.uk. By this date UKSSD will need a high-resolution eps file of your company logo. If it’s more straightforward for us to deal directly with your brand team, please send us their contact details. UKSSD would also like to hear from you if your company can contribute a small amount to the cost of this project – see more detail below.

 

What is UKSSD (UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development)?

UKSSD is an open platform that supports public, private and voluntary organisations working towards sustainable development in the UK. It’s a multi-stakeholder platform encompassing businesses, NGOs, academics and government at all levels. More information is available at www.ukssd.co.uk

 

What’s the objective of the letter?

UKSSD wants the UK Government to acknowledge the importance of the SDGs and the UK’s role in delivering them both domestically and overseas through its policy decisions. The key message is that sustainable development is essential to the UK’s economic prosperity. The letter is a direct call to the Government from UK businesses.

 

What will the letter look like?

It will be a full-page colour ad with the letter text undersigned by the logos of all the participating companies with UKSSD identified as having coordinated the letter. The design of the ad will echo the UN’s colourful SDG iconography.

 

This is a similar approach to the ‘Business Backs Low Carbon Britain‘ letter that UK businesses placed in the Financial Times in June 2015 and was successful in helping to influence the Government’s approach to the Paris climate conference.

 

Which other companies will be involved?

UKSSD will be approaching companies engaged in many aspects of sustainable development and also those that supported the ‘Business Backs Low Carbon Britain’ letter.

 

What other activities will coincide with the letter?

On the day of publication UKSSD will post a news story on the UKSSD website, including a list of participating companies. UKSSD will also publish a blog that goes into more detail about the importance of the SDGs and their relevance to business.

 

UKSSD will support the letter with a press release, which they hope will generate coverage in the other business media. This will all be amplified through UKSSD’s social media channels. UKSSD will encourage participating companies to share and amplify the letter on their own channels and can offer support for this.

 

The letter itself will be posted to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for International Development. After the Davos conference UKSSD will monitor for the Government’s response and may do some follow-up communications as a result. UKSSD will be printing copies of the letter, including company logos, to distribute at events and for other face-to-face advocacy opportunities in early 2017.

 

The outcome of the letter and next steps on this agenda will be discussed at UKSSD’s conference on 1st March. Businesses are very welcome to send a representative. UKSSD has further activities planned for 2017 to engage political and business audiences on the sustainability agenda, including a joint event between UKSSD and BOND on examples of SDG implementation overseas. Please contact us for more information about any of these activities.

 

Does each company need to pay to be involved?

UKSSD is looking for a wide range of businesses to join this initiative and funding is not a condition of participation. However, as a non-profit organisation, UKSSD would welcome any financial support to help meet our costs. Please let us know if this might be possible.

 

Can we suggest changes to the copy and artwork?

Given that UKSSD is involving a number of companies and have hard deadlines to adhere to, it will not be practical to open the copy and design to amendments. However, you will be given a chance to see the final artwork and you can let us know if you have major concerns that might stand in the way of your participation.

 

Who should I contact if I have any other questions?

The letter is being coordinated by UKSSD. Please direct all queries to Francesca Burton at chair@ukssd.co.uk or 01483 412496.

 

Photograph: Flickr/ Will Newcomb.

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The top six read articles 2016

2016 has been an exciting and challenging year for all of us. If there was one adjective that could describe it, I’d have voted for “uncertain”.

 

The world has lived in stormy times. We’ve seen the Western political establishments being shaken up with the rise of populism. Worldwide inequality levels were steadily increasing and many blame globalisation as its cause.

 

Despite the political turbulence business remained true to its promise and the world has seen ratification of the Paris Agreement.

 

Ranging from blockchain and modern slavery to food security and responsible tax, we’ve compiled a list of our top six read articles in 2016. We hope it will help our corporate sustainability community to navigate through uncertainty while preparing for 2017.

 

GLOBAL GOALS – TELL EVERYONE: CUSTOMERS, SUPPLIERS, COLLEAGUES, FRIENDS AND FAMILY!

“The Global Goals represent probably the biggest set of BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) that the world has seen before”, argues Joe Franses of Coca-Cola European Partners. He shares his key take aways on how to break this down and run a successful Global Goals' workshop.

 

COULD THE BLOCKCHAIN REVOLUTIONISE SUSTAINABILITY?

The Internet is missing one thing and the blockchain has it - trust. Jessi Baker, co-founder of Provenance, describes how a new technology called a blockchain might change how we trust companies,  information, and how it empower us as smarter citizens.

 

CAN TECHNOLOGY HELP US TO FEED THE WORLD?

In the next 50 years as diets become richer, experts estimate that to feed a population of 9bn people, more food should be produced than has been during the past 10,000 years in total. Vincent Doumeizel of Lloyd's Register explores how to work together to produce safe and sustainable food.

 

ARE WE ENTERING THE RESPONSIBLE TAX ERA?

Corporate tax avoidance has been a primary ethical concern for the British public since 2013, and businesses must increase transparency to regain public trust. Is it an ethics issue or a result of legal loopholes? Michael Solomon of Responsible 100 asks how far are we from a responsible tax society?

 

WHAT EU REFERENDUM COULD MEAN TO THE UK ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY?  

What would Brexit mean for the UK's environmental policy? In this exclusive blog, David Baldock, executive director at the Institute for European Environmental Policy, argues that the EU has made progress on environmental issues, and outlines the two main scenarios if the UK should vote to leave the EU. 

 

MODERN SLAVERY AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BUSINESS

Forced labour and child exploitation have been guilty secrets lurking in international supply chains for centuries. With the voice of business carrying greater weight than that of conscience, business has a key role to play in addressing modern slavery, says Aidan McQuade of AntiSlavery International.

 

Photograph: Flickr/ victoriacarlson.

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Global Goals – Tell Everyone: Customers, Suppliers, Colleagues, Friends and Family!

I challenge anyone to watch the Global Goals “We the People” video and not want to share it far and wide. That’s exactly what I pledged to do when I saw it for the first time. First step, share it with as many of my colleagues at Coca-Cola Enterprises as possible.

 

The Global Goals were introduced to the world in September 2015, yet the vast majority of people - unless they work in sustainable development - have simply not heard of them. That has to change. 

 

The success of the Global Goals (also known as the Sustainable Development Goals) will depend on everyone understanding what they are, what they aim to achieve and their relevance to their own organisation or business. And the level of ambition is huge.

 

What are the SDGs?

 

The Global Goals represent probably the biggest set of BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) that the world has seen before. A 17-point plan to end poverty, halt climate change and fight injustice and inequality by 2030. Put simply, a step-change for our planet and the biggest attempt in the history of the human race to make the world a better place.

 

It’s a plan which 193 governments have agreed, a plan that the world wants and needs and a plan backed by leading global organisations and the wider business community. It’s a to-do-list for the planet that will only be achieved if everyone plays their part – and the business community has a critical role to play.

 

The Role of Business

 

Of course the SDG’s build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and we shouldn’t forget that the MDG’s delivered significant progress. Since the turn of the Century extreme poverty has halved, 43 million more children go to school, HIV infections have gone down by 40 and over 2 billion more people now have access to clean drinking water. It shows what can be achieved.

 

Whilst the MDG’s were focused on the developing world, the Global Goals have a global focus - including economic, environmental and social issues. PwC recently described the Global Goals as a “game-changer for the planet” – but only if business seizes the opportunity to engage.

 

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General at the UN also has high expectations of the role of business. He said that “business is a vital partner in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Companies can contribute through their core activities, and we ask companies everywhere to assess their impact, set ambitious goals and communicate transparently about the results.” 

 

Introducing the Global Goals at CCE

 

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to run a workshop and introduce the Global Goals to 100 of the most senior leaders across Coca-Cola Enterprises’ supply chain business – including those who lead our manufacturing, procurement, logistics and cold drinks equipment operations.

 

At Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) we have our own Sustainability Plan - seven focus areas, 34 targets and a 2020 time horizon.  The Global Goals represent a Sustainability Plan at an entirely different scale, for the entire planet - 17 goals, 150 targets, and a 15-year time horizon. 

 

Our workshop was simple in structure.  I share a brief outline below to enable anyone to replicate and evolve the format within their own organisation. So what did we achieve? Just one small step, the workshop alone won’t change the world. Yet it did just what we intended it to do. Introduce the Global Goals and begin a process of building awareness and internal engagement.

 

Internally, the feedback has been positive. I’ve received many subsequent requests for multiple copies of an internally-produced Global Goals postcard that people can use with their own teams. 

 

As an output from the workshop we’ve recently developed a simple Infographic to demonstrate the strong alignment that already exists between CCE’s own Sustainability Plan and the Global Goals. Another small step in building awareness. I’d encourage everyone to talk about the Global Goals. Share them with colleagues, suppliers, customers and partners. We have much more to do in the future, but awareness is a good start. #Tell Everyone.

 

Global Goals Workshop

 

Step 1 – Introduce the Goals

Step 2 - Provide an opportunity to deep-dive into individual Goals

Step 3 – Ask three questions. Capture and map answers against Global Goals

  • What can your organisation do in the future to support the Global Goals?
  • What is your organisation currently doing which aligns with the Global Goals?
  • Which of the Global Goals has greatest relevance for your own business and value chain?

Step 4 – Ask participants to identify three things they will do personally to bring the Global Goals to life with their own teams and day-to-day business

Step 5 – Show “We The People” video.

 

Joe Franses is Director, Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability at Coca-Cola Enterprises

 
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The business case for SDGs and what’s needed to achieve them

Launched with much fanfare in September 2015, The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), set the agenda for ‘transforming our world by 2030’. With 17 overarching goals, from ending poverty in all forms to ensuring access to clean energy for all, their scope is broad and long-term. That’s why some argue that they shouldn’t be called SDGs, but rather the Global Goals, as its everyone’s business.  

 

The global goals offer a rare opportunity to create a system change. They bring together the three main actors – government, business and the third sector – around a set of values that matter most to the world. It is the involvement of business that is most challenging, and it may be that the business response determines whether the global goals achieve their objective of transforming the world. 

 

The pessimists argue that, in their current form, the goals are too intangible for business. They are another vague and unachievable set of words to add to a corporate sustainability plan. They are competing for airtime against frameworks that are emerging from the business community such as natural capital, and social impact measurement. 

 

There are some who feel that the delivery has fallen to business because international institutions have failed.

 

But as we found at our Crowd Forum on 11th April, there is a general consensus that the global goals are good for business. 

 

Some companies are working on the risks and opportunities.

 

Aviva says they are divesting from fossil fuels and investing in renewables to help avoid what its chief executive, Mark Wilson, says are “eye-watering” financial risks . Aviva are just one of many, including the Rockefeller Foundation, who join the trend of fossil fuel divestment as a means of securing future growth.  

 

A recent Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management study (the biggest to the date) echoes joint Harvard and London Business Schools’ paper that shows a positive correlation between corporate financial performance (CFP) and environmental and social governance (ESG).

 

The primary opportunity that the global goals present is the potential to connect a model of financial return with society’s biggest challenges. Business is no longer asked to donate to the cause, but rather invest for an anticipated return. The returns come in the form of economic and social gains. This is a unique opportunity to create a system change by using effective market mechanisms.

 

The second major opportunity is innovation. I’m not going to preach for the likes of Patagonia, Unilever and Interface. It’s a common sense that having a purpose beyond profit coupled with hunger for innovation has brought them great rewards.

 

The third opportunity I’d mention is increased employee engagement and talent retention. Motivated and dedicated colleagues is the main asset of any business and a growth engine.

 

Whilst acknowledging that there is a clear business case for the global goals, I wonder what do we need to make them a reality?

 

The biggest challenge indeed lies on the implementation stage. There is a lot of tension – on one hand, there is a desire to make goals non prescriptive and give companies creative license in how they interpret their approach to them. Business however operates best if there is a clear framework.

 

Such circumstances mean that the recently-formed Business and Sustainable Development Commission is to play a pivotal role in navigating the tension between offering the necessary guidance and providing the flexibility and space for businesses to find their own way to commercialise the goals. It may be directing that strain; the goals succeed or fail for business.

 

Elina Yumasheva is head of content at The Crowd. 

 
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Will the SDGs enthuse or confuse employees?

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are an opportunity for business and employees to engage with a global movement. As part of Global Action Plan’s regular “harnessing the power of people” roundtable at The Crowd, we considered the potential for the SDGs to capture the imagination of employees and inspire action to bring about a better future.

 

Now we’ve distilled what we heard at April’s Crowd event on the SDGs, to give you our five ways that SDGs can engage employees.

 

1.  A unifying banner. Companies already have many activities driving their contribution to sustainable development. The consensus around our table was that rebranding these existing (often) successful programmes to align with the SDGs would direct efforts away from delivering on the existing targets. Lord Malloch-Brown in his opening speech went to lengths to point out that the SDGs are not meant to be a set of reporting targets that companies must align with, but rather a long-term movement towards an attractive global vision. What he sees as the purpose of the SDGs in this context, is to collate all businesses’ varied CSR programmes to show how they contribute to the future vision. It is not intended that companies will report on the 160+ detailed targets that underlie the 17 SDGs.

 

2.  A community of advocates. Passionate environmentalists who volunteer in Global Action Plan’s programmes often need to know that they don’t act alone. They know that their efforts can change their world, but their sphere of influence is small compared to the entire globe. Being an environmental advocate is often a thankless or undervalued role too. Knowing that there are others pushing environmental change is important to maintain morale and enthusiasm, and if they get to share their frustrations and challenges with each other, they will progress faster. The SDGs, by creating a common language and common goals, offer people the chance to feel part of something huge that is changing the world for the better. They can also celebrate the actions of advocates around the world and see their progress celebrated in return.

 

3.  No-nonsense targets. Reminiscent of the NSPCC’s Full Stop campaign, the SDGs are similarly ambitious and unambiguous. 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere. 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. 11. Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. The importance of setting targets for a team of employees to aim towards was raised often in the roundtable discussion. The conclusion? That the vision of the SDGs (which will take decades to reach) are a long-term overlay to the more immediate steps a company’s employees might be targeting on that journey (e.g. cut our carbon emissions by 5% this year).

 

4.  Scope for innovation. Leading businesses have flexible innovation programmes, often for recent graduates, in which the participants are presented with relevant societal challenges, but also welcomed to propose their own directions. The SDGs are a well described, well prioritised and comprehensive list of the global challenges in which businesses operate. Imagine a company having an innovation taskforce focusing on every one of the 17 goals. This could lead to an incredible set of business ideas for new products, new markets, staff benefits, cost savings and supply chain resilience improvements.

 

5.  Spoilt for choice. There are 17 SDGs. Can we handle that many messages? A recent survey quoted at the event found that only 1% of businesses planned to address all 17 of the SDGs. And can we as individuals be engaged by this many goals? The consensus in discussion was that this is a lot to handle at any given moment, but universal action to improve all goals is not necessarily the point. I imagine that most of the 30 million employees in the UK would be engaged by at least one of the goals, and will likely agree that they would like to live in a world where these 17 goals have been met. With 17 to choose from, employees can all surely contribute. And personally, I would be delighted to know that my colleagues were ‘looking after’ other goals, whilst my efforts were going towards tackling challenges in the one or two I could contribute towards.

 

The SDGs are a bold vision of what the future could and should become. Their use in engaging employees in CSR activity is to spark enthusiasm, ideas and action in our working population, alongside celebrating progress across the world. Businesses can simply align (not rebrand) their existing CSR activity to the appropriate goal, and benefit from participating in a global movement.

 

Chris Large is Senior Partner at Global Action Plan.

 
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