Representatives of 193 countries met at the United Nations’ annual summit last month to agree on a global agenda for continued growth made up of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs tackle environmental, social and economic issues and will stimulate action from all sectors and stakeholders to build a more sustainable world. The goals reflect the fundamental changes the world needs now and in the future to tackle poverty and climate change, and grow sustainably and equitably. Over the next 15 years, countries are expected to use these goals to frame policies, allocate financing and drive changes that will help build a fair and sustainable world for all.
Why do we need the SDGs?
Prior to the SDGs, UN member states agreed on the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, which were a set of eight measurable goals that sought to end poverty and hunger, promote gender equality and child health, among others, by 2015. These goals had major impacts: For example, 700 million fewer people live in extreme poverty, 2.6 billion people gained access to improved sources of water, and the rate of new HIV infections fell by 40 percent.
The new goals are the result of a three-year process involving 83 national surveys and engaging over seven million people, making it the biggest consultation in UN history. The international community can do more collectively by adopting and implementing the SDGs, which are broader in scope and build on the momentum generated by the MDGs.
The goals aim to unite governments, NGOs, companies and communities to work together to drive the sustainability agenda for the greatest impact. Businesses play a key role and bear a big responsibility to become sustainable. At the same time, the goals point towards the many opportunities for companies in every industry that spring from the global sustainability agenda.
“Some of the world’s most pressing problems — climate change, dwindling natural resources, rising population — are also some of our biggest future business opportunities,” says Claus Stig Pedersen, Head of Corporate Sustainability at Novozymes. “By working with the SDGs, we can better identify and help solve these problems. Novozymes is among the forerunners when it comes to using the SDGs to measure its progress in reaching long-term targets.”
The goals provide a framework that could inspire the future business decisions that will help Novozymes fulfill its purpose of finding biological solutions for better lives in a growing world.
“And we can do that together with the many other partners out there who also aspire to a more just and sustainable world,” Stig Pedersen adds.
The SDGs highlight environmental, economic and social issues of global importance such as eradicating poverty, investing in sustainable water, energy and transport infrastructure, and enabling food security. In turn, this helps companies such as Novozymes to consistently deliver solutions that contribute to sustainable growth.
Novoyzmes’ technologies in the areas of bioenergy, detergents, food and feed put it in a good spot to help achieve the SDGs relating to food security, sustainable consumption and sustainable agriculture and energy.
“We know these factors will impact our business environment in the future, and by considering those aspects in how we prioritize our innovation pipeline, we will make it stronger,” Stig Pedersen says.
The Danish biotech giant is in the process of developing a systematic approach to measure its contribution to the SDGs, building on experience with Life Cycle Assessments that have successfully been used to measure the effect of Novozymes’ solutions on the environment.
The company points out that integrating the SDGs into how companies understand their business also helps them better manage future issues such as tougher environmental regulations, a price on carbon emissions, and the rising cost of natural resources such as water.