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  • Writer's picturejoheneker

How the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals can help you!

Updated: Jun 11, 2021

Working in the sustainability sector, we are very familiar with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs for short, and it’s easy to think that everyone knows all about them, regardless of what you do or who you are. However, that isn’t the case and there are many people who have no idea what they are.

So we thought it would be worth writing a blog on what the SDGs are how they might be useful to you as a small business owner or even as an individual.

First of all, we love them, not least because they’re colourful, and we love all things bright and colourful here at sust.!! While we are, of course, having a bit of fun, there is a slightly serious point here, as bright, eye-catching things are engaging, and hopefully more memorable for everyone.

In this blog, we will start with a whistle stop tour of what the SDGs are and what they represent before we give you some tips on what you can do with them.

What are these goals that you speak of?

There are 17 goals all together, and they were devised in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly (the main policy making bit of the UN). Before the SDGs, there was an earlier version called the Millennium Development Goals but we won’t go into them here, as it’s just more stuff for you to try to remember!

The goals were cleverly set out to cover planet, prosperity, peace, and partnerships, and the sum of each individual one should lead to a better, more sustainable future for everyone. Each goal has around 8-12 targets (many to be delivered between now and 2030) and then each target has between 1 and 4 indicators. Now that is a lot of stuff to measure but we won’t go into that today, as we don’t want to overwhelm you!!

Honestly, we believe that’s all you really need to know about the background of the SDGs. Anything else, don’t worry about it, and instead focus your energy on doing something tangible to make the world a better place.

What are the SDGs then?

Here they are in all their colourful glory.

As you can see, the goals cover a wide range of subjects, and to be honest, a couple of them do overlap a bit, but we don’t think that’s the end of the world: climate change will probably see to that!!

As you read through them all, they’re pretty straightforward. The last 2 are a bit abstract and perhaps not really relatable to small business owners and many individuals but we think the others are very clear and easy to understand.

So what can you do with them?

To be very honest, it’s unrealistic to expect anyone to be able to do things to support each and every goal. We call that boiling the ocean and that’s something we definitely don’t want to do. But we do think that each and every one of us will have some sort of emotional reaction to at least one of the goals.

Take a moment to go through the list carefully and really think about each one and see which one resonates with you most, puts a fire in your belly and makes you angry, or passionate, or excited (or a bit of each!). When you’re looking at them, also think about your business aims and purpose. The SDG website is a good place to get into each goal in more detail, and you can access that here. There’s also a handy app you can download onto your phone.

Just to give you a bit of a helping hand, this is how the goals work for our founder, Jo. Goals 8 – decent work and economic growth, 5 – gender equality and 15 – life on land – are the ones that really stand out to her. Jo has always been community minded and really wants to see her town, Letchworth, thrive. She’s also really passionate about gender equality, as a female entrepreneur. Jo is a nature lover and life on land has become ever more important in recent years (most certainly since pandemic lockdowns) as Jo gets to know her local area and the biodiversity there.

And if nothing speaks to you? Well, that’s ok too. It might just take a little time to figure it out. If you are horrified by the ongoing racism in society, for example, then have a think about goal 10 ‘Reduced Inequality’. If you’re a chef, and love providing good nutritious food to your customers, then maybe take a closer look at goal 2 ‘Zero Hunger’. Many of you will have been through the challenge of home schooling during the pandemic and no doubt gained real insight into the role of our teachers, so perhaps you could consider goal 4 ‘Quality Education’.

Ok, thanks sust., that’s all very interesting, but so what?

As we’ve already said, we believe there’s bound to be at least one goal that you could become a champion of and then use that to focus the sustainability efforts in your business.

Once you’ve identified the goal that means something to you, then you can start to think of how to build that into the way you do things. Let’s take sust. as an example, based on the goals that Jo, our founder, is drawn to.

As mentioned above, one of the goals Jo is passionate about is 8 – decent work and economic growth. This goal is very much about good local job creation, entrepreneurship, using resources responsibly and sustainable tourism, amongst other things. Jo decided to set up sust. because she believes she can help small businesses and organisations be better – for themselves and for the planet. Her passion for goal 8, has driven her approach to running the business: if she can help local businesses thrive, then the local community will thrive, too – a virtuous circle, if you will.

Taking this a bit further, Jo uses the goals she is passionate about to help her make decisions. A good example of this is the choice of charities sust. will support. As mentioned in our last blog, sust. will be supporting local charities and we are finalising our decision based on those goals (announcement coming soon).

What now?

As you can see, finding your sustainability passion can really help underpin why you’re in business, and can help guide your decision making and direction, something that all business owners will benefit from.

Over the coming weeks, we will be doing spotlights on various goals via short blogs and Instagram posts, so keep an eye out for them, as they’ll give you lots more to think about on the specific goals that interest you.

Get in touch if you would like us help you with identifying the goals most relevant to you and your business. If you would like us to highlight a specific goal in the coming weeks, do let us know, otherwise, we will work our way through them in numerical order.

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