Business & SDGs.

December 4 2018 – Entrepreneurs are willing to contribute to the 17 sustainable development goals from the UN, but their actions aren’t sufficient, should we want to realize the SDGs in 2030. During the conference ‘Business & SDGs’, we were concretely suggested to expedite.
By Annemarie van Oorschot


Door Annemarie van Oorschot

Almost 90 percent of the 130 members of Global Compact Network Netherlands (GCNL) want to contribute to the 17 development goals (SDGs) from the United Nations and communicates about this. Among them there are many large and small companies, like Philips, VolkerWessels and Ximedes Software. This is indicated by the progress report which was published by GCNL on November 30th, 2018, during the conference ‘Business & SDGs: Becoming aware of impact!’. That the SDGs are important to entrepreneurs also became apparent because of the fact that the conference was completely full. The 150 members filled the lecture hall in the Rotterdam Erasmus University up until the very last seat. Nevertheless, Jan-Willem Scheijgrond, chairman of GCNL and Jan Peter Balkenende, chairman of Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition, collectively gave a clear warning. Should we want the SDGs to be realized in 2030 – the goal for which almost every county in the world has signed – we must expedite, because the impact is still lacking.

Making measurable
Scheijgrond, nevertheless the vice-president of Government and Public Affairs at Philips, emphasized that during the conference that companies and organizations can expedite if they incorporate the SDGs in their corporate strategy. “Look which SDGs align with your mission. Assure that the impact on those SDGs becomes detectable and measurable, and report that. Then your business will grow faster too. If you make yourself accountable, you can change the world.”
Balkenende emphasized the vision of Scheijgrond. That the SDG’s must be integrated in the strategy and the existing internal management reports of companies is one of the three conditions for the necessary expedition. Those reports are helpful to the transformation of the portfolio, for example circular products, and with the development of new, sustainable business models.
According to both Balkenende and Scheijgrond, the other two conditions needed for the realization of the SDG’s are the increase of breakthrough-innovations in partnerships and the implementation of the SDGs in the curriculums of all educational institutions, from elementary schools to universities.

Helpful tools
The day previous of the conference, the accountancy firm PwC announced that companies find difficulty in creating concrete consequences and actualizing the goals. PwC conducted research amongst 729 listed companies from 21 countries, 40 of which are from The Netherlands. Linda Midgley, senior-manager Sustainability & Responsible Governance at PwC, explained to the attending entrepreneurs that in takes time to translate world goals to business practices, whereby that practice also differs depending on the region. She offered helpful tool such as:
1. A choice-instrument, which helps you determine which of the SDG-sub goals (169) and the corresponding indicators are appropriate for your company;
2. A step-by-step guide which can help implement the chosen sub goals in your current reporting processes;
3. A practical guide which can help you implement the wishes of investors.

The tools can be found here: www.globalreporting.org and www.unglobalcompact.org and are also recorded in the SDG progress report from GCNL.
Ook professor Rob van Tulder, verbonden aan de Rotterdam School of Management van de Erasmus Universiteit en gespecialiseerd in International Business en Society Management, wees op twee praktische gidsen van zijn hand:
1. Getting all the motives right
2. Framework for effective corporate involvement

Lise Kingo
CEO of UN Global Compact, Lise Kingo, flown in from New York, stated that we shouldn’t forget that it was just merely three years ago all the UN-countries committed to the 17 SDGs and signed the Climate Agreement in Paris. “Global Compact is a movement towards a better world. we want ‘business as usual’ differently. In the meantime, 9500 companies are membered, of which CEO’s are involved in almost 70 percent of those cases. In local networks, 14.000 companies are already involved with SDGs. This is a positive development!”

Yousef Yousef
Chairman of the VNO-NCW Netwerk Groene Groeiers, Yousef Yousef, who organized the conference with the help of GCNL: “As entrepreneur you can only make an impact when you are disposed of money, good people and growth.” Yousef is CEO-owner of LG Sonic and has a product that that is able to clean water with soundwaves instead of toxic chemicals. Drinking water companies are his most important clients. Established in 2011, meanwhile active in 35 countries with a profit growth of 35 percent, he is a successful, sustainable grower. Yousef: “I have some tips for small companies looking to grow. Focus on the client, not on the technology. Focus on your team and the impact of that team, not on the numbers. And don’t sell your company too fast, so that you maintain the freedom of your decisions and so that they are good for your company and a better world.”

1 Euro
Considering that Sinterklaas is in the country (a famous Dutch tradition), all participants received a coin made of chocolate (also a Dutch tradition) worth 1 Euro, with the intent for them to invest in the development which could make the most impact on the SDGs. The choices were between technology, creating of market demand, and sustainable investing policies of financial institutions. The large majority (80 percent) invested their euro in creating of market demand for sustainable products and services.

Action

“I call for you to make actions”, Balkenende stated, closing the conference. “We must unite our forces – businesses, governments, educational institutions – and work on a better world. Make dreams reality!”

During the conference, Jan-Willem Scheijgrond, chairman of Global Compact Network Netherlands, and Steed van de Velde, dean Rotterdam School of Management Erasmus University, signed an alliance. Students from RSM receive the possibility to collaborate on SDG-projects from the companies of GCNL, one example being the Young Professional Program.