a quick guide for business
sustainable development goals
In this Guide, we will discover how your business can start contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
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CONTENT
Part 1:
WHAT ARE THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS?
Part 2:
HOW BUSINESSES CAN CONTRIBUTE TO THE SDGS
Part 3:
a basic checklist to get started
Bonus:
RESOURCES FOR YOU TO GET STARTED
Part 1:
WHAT ARE THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS?

WHAT ARE THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS?

The 17 SDGs (sometimes called ‘The GlobalGoals’) is a collection of independent but interconnected goals carefully designed to give all of us on our planet a better future, with hundreds of targets and measurement indicators geared toward a date of 2030. The goals were created with businesses in mind, providing a path – what some people refer to as a “Pathway for Humanity” — for any business to harness their power by directing their efforts toward specific global objectives.

The goals themselves to be simple and direct, but powerful, ranging from ending poverty to building sustainable cities. Any individual can find something on the diverse list of SustainableDevelopment Goals to work toward. Small and medium-sized businesses, however, are uniquely positioned to make significant impacts on the SDG targets.
Part 2:
HOW BUSINESSES CAN CONTRIBUTE TO THE SDGS
In a competitive world where many businesses struggle to survive, there seems to be little capital or effort to spare for anything other than the operations of the business itself. This makes it easy for even the most generous of entrepreneurs to say that “one day”, perhaps when their enterprise has grown, they can start using their success todo good in the world.

But businesses need to learn quickly that they don’t have to wait. From adopting simple changes in their day-to-day operation to giving back small amounts to a high-impact charity that aligns with one of the goals, every business, big or small can start right now.

PICK A GOAL

Start easy by choosing a goal that resonates with you and your business most. Or if you can't decide yet, explore the whole list of options below and pick out some ideas.

sdg1: no poverty

As of 2015, about 736 million people still lived on less than $1.90 a day. 1 in every 10 people is extremely poor. Eradicating poverty is one of the most challenging goals to overcome. 

Sponsor education and occupational training

There are a large number of causes around the world working on solving this issue, but they need support to keep their project running and growing. To maximize your impacts, choose to support projects that focus on giving a hand up instead of hand-out. This means occupational training that ensures long-term employability, or education that helps break the poverty cycle.

Give away your extra products to people inneed

If your company sells a physical good, you are bound to have extra materials and old models laying around. Don’t let them go to waste! Find a local shelter for the homeless to give away some products, or an organization that can redistribute the goods to those in need. 

Take Orion Labs as an example: the company now has its second generation of wearable communication devices on the market.

So what happened to the leftover first-generation inventory? Operations guru Andrew Sherman saw an opportunity at a local homeless youth organization that could put the product to good use. He provided the devices and arranged training for the non-profit’s team so that these new electronics could improve communications within the program and help it run more seamlessly.

sdg2: ZERO HUNGER

“Nearly 690 million people are hungry or affected by hunger. The world is not on track to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030.”– the United Nations

Support programs that rescue leftover food

We can all agree that nobody should go hungry in such an affluent world, but our communities are where we can do something about it. SDG 2 – Zero Hunger shows us a pathway to change the world by feeding our needy neighbors. Businesses can make a big impact by providing paid days off for employees to volunteer in hunger-related activities. Soup kitchens, food banks, and home food delivery programs for the needy and elderly are always in need of eager volunteers. There’s typically a greater need during the holiday season.

Provide school lunches to students in need

School lunches do more than just easing hunger. For many disadvantaged children around the world, school lunch could be the only nutritious meal of the day. The provision of free nourishing meals also encourages parents to enroll their children in local schools, incentivizes children to attend school regularly, and helps them concentrate better with their studies.

Give away surplus food in your pantry

We can all be guilty of this – keeping our canned food for too long and forgot about them. Create a habit, be it in the office or at home, to clear out your pantry monthly or quarterly, and look for surplus food in your pantry. As long as they’re still good to use, bring it to a local shelter near you.

sdg3: Good Health and Well-being

Recent years have seen tremendous progress in increasing life expectancy and reducing child and maternal mortality. But the numbers still keeps us on our toes. In 2018 an estimated 6.2 million children and adolescents under the age of 15 years died, mostly from preventable causes

From providing mosquito nets to prevent malaria to cataract operations to bring sight, there are plenty of ways you can help

Expand the reach of your impacts by also give to causes that solving health issues around the world. From providing mosquito nets to families in Kenya that only costs a few dollars to sponsoring cataract operations to people in Indonesia that could cost a hundred – you can choose how you want to make a difference. Check out health projects in B1G1 here.
Within your business, there are practices that you can implement as well to ensure the safety and health of your employees. Check out some ideas below.

Make your workplace safer by creating safety guidelines

Image Credit: WSH Council
It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Safety guidelines are usually more common for industries that involve the use of heavy machinery, but there are some practices applicable for office environment as well.

Show that you care by having a set of safety guidelines and conducting regular checks to make sure it’s followed. If you need some inspiration, check out this gallery of safety practice illustrations by WSH Council in Singapore.

Select suppliers with good safety practices

If you’re not one that operates heavy machinery, chances are some of your suppliers do. Choose to work with suppliers that also have good safety practices in place.

Fitness and health program for employees

Gym membership, regular health check-up, mental health support programs are just some of the things you can offer your employees as part of ensuring good health and well being for everyone.

SDG4: Quality Education

In 2018, about 260 million children are still out of school. Worldwide, more than half of children and adolescents do not meet the minimum standards in reading and mathematics proficiency.

Support program that provides education

Education is the pathway out of poverty and the foundation for a better future. There is no dispute on that. 

Sponsor local school scholarships or give to causes that build schools, supply books, and train teachers in remote areas of the world. By helping remove some of the barriers to education, you’re not just enriching their individual lives and leveling the playing field – you’re also adding talent to the workforce. Who knows? You could be helping to educate a future employee!

Find out more about education projects here.

Fund school facility or the building of school

In remote areas in many countries, schools are rare and not well-built. This poses a health risk for children as they attend their daily classes. Support projects that help build schools in these areas could be another way to support education.

sdg5: Gender Equality

The world has made some tremendous progress towards gender equality in recent years – more girls are now going to school, fewer are forced to get married early and more female representatives are in the parliament.

But we’re not yet close to gender equality with 1 in 5 women and girls between 15 to 49 are being physically and sexually assaulted by an intimate partner. And there are not enough female leaders in political positions.

Ensure fair hiring practices

Ensure fair hiring evaluations, gender ratio, and rules and regulations to help you keep the hiring process in check. This also includes training your HR team to identify and eliminate any gender bias in the hiring process.

Equal pay for equal work

This is not something new, but many women are still facing discrimination when it comes to wages. Equal pay relates to the full range of payments and benefits, including basic pay, non-salary payments, bonuses, and allowances.  At times, this discrimination can be subconscious and tough to detect. Again, this could be included in your company’s rule book to keep everyone in check.

Encourage dialogue to support female workers

Go one step further and ensure a safe workplace for your team, especially female employees. Encourage one-on-one conversations to get to know them better and listen if they have concerns.

Give to programs that support girls’education, provide sanitary items to girls and conduct awareness programs on gender equality

From providing maternal care to business training to women – there are many ways you could empower women around the world. Check out some projects in B1G1 here.

get a free giving plan

You might think that you need big financial investments to start contributing to the SDGs. Or, you might feel overwhelmed by the sheer range of activities to choose from.

The truth is, it can come very naturally if you embrace it as a mindset rather than a PR campaign. There are many simple ways to practice social responsibility - as long as you embrace it within your culture. It might be a small decision that eventually leads to great change.

If you'd like to start now, get a Giving Plan from us and we'll give you some tailored tips on how to get started.
GET A GIVING PLAN

sdg6: Clean Water and Sanitation

Worldwide, one in three people does not have access to safe drinking water. This number alone speaks volumes about the amount of work that still needs to be done.

Start with daily practices

To tackle this world issue, start with the easy daily practices - be it installing taps that turn off automatically in your workplace, or reducing water wastage within your production line. Clean water is a finite resource, and only with good practice can we keep this finite resource available for everyone.

Sign the W.A.S.H pledge

Businesses can be some of the biggest offenders in the wastage of water, so when they take the lead in water conservation, they can make a huge impact on awareness in their communities. 

Support SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation by committing your business to a WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) pledge to “[implement] access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene at the workplace”. This will not only help keep your community clean but set a standard and expectation for others to follow – including your competitors!
Image Credit: W.A.S.H Pledge

Support programs that build wells and provide water filters

In remote areas of the world, people travel miles to collect water that more often than not, is not safe to drink. Simply by building well and providing water filters in these areas, we can prevent water-borne diseases and save the lives of thousands. The best part is, it only costs as little as 1 cent to provide water for a person per day.

Discover SDG6 projects here.

SDg7: Affordable and Clean Energy

Energy remains one of the dominant factors leading to climate change, accounting for 60% of greenhouse gas emissions.

While the world has been moving towards goal 7 with more people in poorer countries getting access to energy and renewable energy being developed and put in use, we can do so much more.

Implement energy savings practices in your business

Did you know that a small business uses up to 25,000kWh of energy per year, which amounts to 25 tons of CO2?

It’s high time we make changes in our business to reduce energy usage, which proves to be a win-win move for everyone. Saving your electricity bill also means saving the environment.  A professional will probably be the best way to go but there are many things you can do yourself to check if your office space is optimized.

Here’s a simple checklist you can use:
  • Locate air leaks - these could reduce the efficiency of heating/cooling
  • Check insulation - insulation standards and requirements change over time
  • Inspect heating/cooling equipment - equipment gets less effective as it ages and as filters clog up
  • Lighting - are you using  energy-saving bulbs? Also, consider using controllers such as sensors and timers
  • Appliances - switch off when not in use to prevent phantom power loss

Support and invest in businesses that are working on clean energy

Clean energy is the way for us to move forward.

While clean energy like solar power has been proven to be a viable source of energy, its adoption is still not high enough to bring us nearer to our goal.Support and invest in businesses that work on clean energy and be part of creating the change.

Give to programs that provide solar-powered devices to rural families

Solar power is a great way to bring electricity to remote areas that don’t get enough access to power grids. Sponsor a solar-stove or a solar lamp here.

SDG8 : Decent Work and Economic Growth

Provide a conducive workplace

Most people spend about one-third of their adult lives in a workplace environment. 

It is essential to ensure that people have a workplace conducive to maintaining good health.  

Emphasize safe practices in the workplace through frequent training and refreshers. Implement health and fitness programs for your team. Also, consider carefully selecting your suppliers and other B2B partners based on how they regard the health of their employees.

Review your supply chain

Businesses are often the endpoint in a long supply chain that begins with basic materials and supplies taken from the very land on which we live.

Review your supply chain from top to bottom to make sure that all of the stages uphold human and labor rights, promote and adopt sustainable environmental practices, and work against corruption in all its forms. If you’re unsure how to start, check out this guide from the UN.

Give to projects that provide micro-finance to women

Lend your support to economically disadvantaged women and their families to help them escape from a life of poverty by providing a business loan which includes on-going training and mentoring.

Opt for programs that not only provide funds but also aim to give training to these women in order for them to establish their own business. Explore some of the projects here.

SDG9: Industry,Innovation, and Infrastructure

While we are so used to the availability of 3G (or even 5G), it can be surprising to know that 16% of the world population does not have access to mobile broadband networks.

Fund projects that build roads, schools, businesses

To ensure less developed areas around the world can also thrive, building infrastructure that facilitates innovation and technology progress is key. Sponsor the building of an e-learning hub or fund asocial enterprise can be some of the ways you can help

Sponsor social entrepreneurs/ non-profit organizations by giving coaching, mentoring and service support

Just like a business, each non-profit organization needs accounting, finance, marketing departments that keep it running. And it needs a team well-equipped with skills and knowledge to run them, but often lacks funds to support skill development.

This is where your business expertise could be of great help. If you run a business that specializes in any of those areas, offering pro-bono consultation is a wonderful way to engage with non-profit, support their growth so that they can work their magic on the ground.

Invest in innovations and new technologies to help make them affordable for all

New technologies take time and effort to develop. This often means a higher cost to adopt. By investing in innovations and new technologies, you could help to reduce the cost and make it affordable for even remote areas of the world.

SDG10: Reduced Inequalities

Support movements that promote equality

If you are passionate about equality, chances are you've heard of many movements advocating for it - be it BlackLives Matter, Empower Women, or LGBT Rights.

Take action and let your business be an advocate for what you believe it. Of course, it's important to also check with your team and make sure everyone is on the same page.

Support migrants and refugees in your communities

Migrants and refugees more often than not face discrimination and hence inequalities. By supporting projects that provide education to refugee children, or access to healthcare for refugees in your communities, you can help to create a better livelihood for them.

Visit local shelters, minor community centers

Make a trip to your local shelters or minor communities center. Have dialogues to understand the often marginalized in the community. Better yet, invite your team members to join you. This is a great way to promote empathy and understanding in your workplace.

sdg11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

60% of global GDP is contributed by cities and metropolitan areas. At the same time, 70% of global carbon emissions are also produced by cities. Building sustainable cities and communities is the only way to fuel development without damaging our Earth.

Invest in renewable energy

More and more people are packing into urban areas each year. The sustainability of cities is vital to the future of humanity, but they are eating up our consumable natural resources. Being big consumers of energy, businesses can help by taking the lead on SDG 11 –Sustainable Cities and Communities.

Invest in renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, and biofuel. By joining initiatives such as the UN Global Compact, you can be one of the businesses to lead the charge toward a more sustainable future.

Encourage sustainable mode of transportation in your business

Besides being a great workout and good for health, cycling to work can reduce up to 6% of your carbon footprint. Not burning fossil fuel to run a car means less exhaust, plus a bicycle takes up a lot less material and hence energy to produce than a car. Public transport is a great option too.

Support projects to improve the livelihood of people

It is important to create a world where everyone lives and thrives in an environment that gives them the best opportunity possible. Sanitary facilities, solar lamps, good shoes, washing powder – these are just some small things that not only brighten up someone’s day but greatly enhance their lives.

get a free giving plan

You might think that you need big financial investments to start contributing to the SDGs. Or, you might feel overwhelmed by the sheer range of activities to choose from.

The truth is, it can come very naturally if you embrace it as a mindset rather than a PR campaign. There are many simple ways to practice social responsibility - as long as you embrace it within your culture. It might be a small decision that eventually leads to great change.

If you'd like to start now, get a Giving Plan from us and we'll give you some tailored tips on how to get started.
GET A GIVING PLAN

SDG12: Responsible Consumption and Production

Source your suppliers carefully

All the good you are doing can be wiped away in an instant by suppliers that don’t share your socially conscious vision. Ensure that your raw materials are produced ethically, and become amore sustainable business in the process.

Starbucks makes it a priority to source their raw materials from local suppliers that have proven that they care about their communities. And that contagious, caring disposition trickles all the way down from the coffee beans into their customers’ cups.

Encourage Reduce, Reuse, Recycle at workplace

The usage of single-use plastic bags, plastic bottles, and other containers puts great pressure on our Earth. Do you have a business that provides plastic bags for customers? Start switching to polypropylene bags(green reusable bags) if you have not already. Then, encourage your customers to reuse those bags. (Fun fact: these bags should be reused 35 times before being used as a bin liner or discarded to minimize their impact on the environment).

You could even implement a reward system for customers who brought their own bags. 

Another change you can adopt is to have a water fountain or cooler instead of a vending machine that distributes plastic drink bottles in the office. Remember, every small change makes a huge impact in the long run.

Set up a recycling corner in the office to encourage recycling too.
Image Credit: Michael Jin on Unsplash

sdg13: CLIMATE ACTION

Reduce food waste

A quick Google of food waste statistics is quite shocking. In Singapore, food wastage has increased by 30% over the last10 years and in Australia, food waste costs the economy $20 billion each year. These figures and patterns are unfortunately not only restricted to industrialized countries and accounts for 4.4 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions yearly.

Most of this wastage is due to cosmetic reasons – food being ugly, bruised, too small, too large, the wrong color, but still very much edible. Let’s learn to look past what we’ve been taught about the ‘right’ looking food and signal to our food producers that we will eat what is edible, regardless of appearance.

Offset your ‘hidden’ carbon emission

Ultimately, no matter how much we try, we undoubtedly will put out more carbon than we want to, whether it’s the invisible carbon footprint of our consumption, necessary travel, or anything in between.  But good news – there are many organizations out there who can help you reduce your carbon footprint through carbon offsets.

No matter which organizations you choose to partner with, transparency is key. Ask for regular updates or reports on the actual results of their work.

Support National Parks and conservation facilities

Numerous organizations are working to conserve our beautiful nature and the world of flora and fauna that come with it. Check out some of them here.

sdg14: life below water

The ocean covers 75% of our Earth and is a home to over 200,000 species. And yet, approximately 40% of our precious water bodies is being affected by pollution.

Make conscious choices every day

When hosting events, request hotels, and facilities to provide jugs and glasses instead of bottled water.

Another change you can adopt is to have a water fountain or cooler instead of a vending machine that distributes plastic drink bottles in the office. Remember, every small change makes a huge impact in the long run.

Volunteer for beach clean-ups

Partner with your local charity and organize a beach clean-up day for your company. It’s a great way to do good and bond as a team.

Support marine life protection projects

Whether it's cleaning up beaches, protecting sea turtles, or preventing illegal shark trading, there is much we can do to stop the abuse of the ocean. Check out some of them here.

SDG15: life on land

Remove single-use in your business

Single-use and disposable should be the new bad words of this decade. While there is some justified use of single-use material such as in the medical field, here we are talking about convenience.

Convenience can no longer be an excuse for unnecessarily polluting our oceans ,piling up landfills, and using precious raw material. Plastic production is extremely harmful to the environment, it starts with fracking for petroleum, all the way until it is buried as waste.

According to the Center for International Environmental Law, ‘plastic is among the most significant and rapidly growing sources of industrial greenhouse gas emissions’. Set up an office informal rule to bring your own containers to takeaway food, your cup to takeaway drinks. That way, you can hold each other accountable!

Reduce the use of harsh chemicals in your production process

Opt for more natural materials - they may seem to cost a tad more, but using them also puts you on the map as an environmentally sustainable business. And it saves our planet. 

For example, if you're in the fashion business, choose more natural fibers – like Cotton, Linen, Tencel, and Bamboo and look for organic and recycled materials. Even your dye can be made from natural ingredients like turmeric. The options are endless.
Image Credit: Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Support Causes that protect Life on land

Planting trees, protecting endangered animals, rescuing excess food, and reducing carbon emissions – many causes are working to save our planet.

sdg16: Peace,justice, and Institutions

By the end of 2018, 70 million people have been displaced due to conflict and violence. Recent incidences of injustice that sparked a wave of movements have shone a spotlight on the importance of human rights. As a business, you have tremendous power to be the voice of justice and influence both your suppliers and customers.

Support programs that prevent abuse and human trafficking

Unfortunately, human trafficking and modern slavery are still present across the whole world. There are many projects around the world working to tackle these issues. From creating safer communities by training police officers, providing counseling to families, and creating awareness in communities plagued by this issue, to helping survivors rebuilding their lives – these projects are making a tremendous change on the ground. 

Discover the projects here.

Passionate about an issue? Don’t hesitate to take action.

You’re likely to retain customers who care about the same issues as well. Of course, if the issue you’re passionate about is a controversial topic, you may want to take a stand, but stay caring and respectful in your messaging so you don’t drive away customers who may not believe in the same thing. After all, disagreements are common, but respect and empathy will help your message shine without upsetting anyone.
Image Credit: Lan Nguyen on Unsplash

SDG17: PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOALS

Partner with other businesses through joining a community that works towards such goals SDG 17 – Partnerships For The Goals encourages businesses to become part of partnerships for responsible action in pursuit of any and all of the global goals. 

Be it UN Global Compact or BCorps, there are a set of criteria for you to meet. This helps set the standards that keep us all in-check. By combining the enthusiasm for certain goals, partnerships become greater than the sum of their parts. You don’t have to stop at implementing sustainable programs at your workplace.

Participate in change-maker events like sustainability education programs or retreats that let you see the effects of change. Network with like-minded business leaders and see what more you can do!
Part 3:
a basic checklist to get started

STEP 1: Select SDGs that resonate with you and your business

You can choose to support one, many or all - that's entirely up to you. You can also look at which SDG resonates most with your personal value, your company value and your community value.
Sian Conway, founder of the world’s first and largest network for ethical business owners #EthicalHour, began her own journey into responsible consumption by breaking her fast fashion habit. Discovered the ugly truth behind fast-fashion, Sian embarks on her journey to live a life of responsible consumption and makes sure that transpires into her business as well.

Through Ethical Hour, Sian began connecting like-minded change-makers. Supporting them through business mentoring, marketing training and consultancy, and embedding work towards the Global Goals into her own business and the work she was doing with clients.
Started with a belief, Sian and her community has created 1,979 impacts through B1G1 up to date, supporting the SDGs she's most passionate about.

STEP 2: Draft out a plan – start small and grow from there

STEP 3: GET YOUR TEAM ONBOARD

It's important to get buy-in from everyone in your team. For it to be successful and sustainable, your team needs to be involved too.
Basic Bookkeepers - an accounting firm based in Australia not only makes sure the team supports the giving initiative but encourages each team member to be an active part of the effort. Every team members chooses an SDG they're most passionate about. Every time they complete a piece of work, a contribution will be made towards B1G1 projects supporting the SDG they chose.

This gives the team another reason to show up every day and to do their best - because now, their work is making a difference to the lives of others around the world too.

STEP 4: Advocate for the SDGs using your business

The SDGs set ambitious goals - the goals that need to be reached by 2030.

And we all know that we can't do this alone. After all, this is a joint effort, and only when businesses join hands, we can make a real difference in the world.

Spread the word and advocate for the SDGs using your business. Be it printing the goals stickers on your merchandise, product, putting the goals on your website and actively talking about them in your daily work and communication with your clients.

STEP 5: Never stop innovating

It's easy to feel complacent and stop innovating when we think we've done enough. But the SDGs set ambitious goals, and to reach those ambitious goals, extraordinary effort is needed.

Businesses around the world are working on innovative solutions to address climate change, eliminate hunger and poverty, improve healthcare and livelihood of those in less developed regions. There are so much to be done - and only when we continue to innovate can we reach our goals, together.
Part 4:
RESOURCES FOR YOU TO GET STARTED

RESOURCE 1:

LEGACY - THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS IN ACTION

This is a beautifully crafted and curated book by 52 change-makers and entrepreneurs around the world. Fore-worded by Paul Polman, Former CEO of Unilever and Vice-Chair of the U.N. Global Compact, this Amazon Best-seller shows how people and businesses truly can change the way our world evolves. It empowers every entrepreneur and business owner to embody the spirit of giving, to adopt impactful strategies and to make a great difference by focusing on the Sustainable Development Goals.

RESOURCE 2:

get a free giving plan

If you'd like to embed the SDGs right at the core of your business, get a Giving Plan from us and we'll give you some tailored tips on how to get started.

What's in this plan:
  • Personalized tips to make your giving easier than ever
  • Discovering high-impact projects that really make a difference
  • Seeing new ways to link the SDGs authentically to your business objectives
  • A one-to-one walkthrough of your very own Giving Plan
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