The new Sustainable Development Goals Fund report on Universality and the SDGs is compelling to the private sector for a number of reasons. Namely, it lays out the notion that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are important to business, whether they are fully knowledgeable about the 17 goals, the relevance to their business - or more importantly - how to integrate the 169 targets into existing reporting and environmental, social and governance (ESG) frameworks.
When it comes to sustainable development, large companies are often too myopically focused perhaps intuitively on their own balance sheets, and in many cases on the needs of their shareholders. However, with the new SDGs now firmly in place, companies are slowly but surely looking at development through a larger and more comprehensive lens. They are also eager to clearly identify the common principles that can help them align their core business or corporate responsibility strategies within the context of the SDGs.
Companies like ours at Ferrovial have recently worked to integrate our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan into the larger SDG Framework into what we call Plan 20.19, which covers the years from 2017-2019. And like many companies in this space, we are eager to use resources more effectively and play a relevant part in the new Sustainable Development Agenda.
For us - as a growing global provider of sustainable infrastructure and services focused on building roads, tolls, and airports - taking the SDGs into account in our long-term strategy is something we have done voluntarily. We are convinced that companies (both large and small) who fail to do so will get left behind, their reputation may be affected and they may lose valuable business opportunities.
So how did we get started? To begin with, we focused on a number of goals where we felt that our company could have a clear impact:
- First, in the area of population growth: According to the United Nations (UN), more than 6 billion people will live in large cities by 2045. We believe that this trend will contribute to an increase in the demand for new social and transport infrastructure, as well as in the demand of services to counter challenges such as traffic congestion and environmental degradation.
- Second, exploring the effects of climate change: We know that growing global levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have a direct influence on our day-to-day business. For example, while individual people’s mobility generates close to 25 percent of total global emissions, cities and buildings generate more than 30 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. So looking forward, as we continue to construct key infrastructure projects, no matter what type - it becomes increasingly important to provide more environmentally sustainable solutions.
For us, the clear framework of the SDGs provides an overarching perspective and an effective way to continue to measure progress within our industry. We have also identified that there is ample opportunity for us to work to leverage our strengths and to contribute to the new Development Agenda and promote better living conditions for society as a whole.
Looking forward, we see numerous opportunities to continue to concentrate on the SDGs associated with our core business, although we know that our various business activities - for example, devising clean water solutions and building partnerships - indirectly cut across all 17 SDGs.
More importantly, as we continue to collaborate with partners such as the UN and national governments in this global effort, it is clear that the momentum and ultimate success of the goals must also involve new stakeholders and partnerships. And the “universal” nature of the goals will require that enterprises of all sizes take actionable steps to align with goals linked to their business strategy.
The beauty of the goals is that they allow companies to report information on sustainable development performance using common indicators and a shared set of priorities. For now, Ferrovial will focus on contributing to three of these SDGs: SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation; SDG 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure; and SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities.
By prioritizing these goals, we believe we will be on the right path to meet our own corporate sustainability mission. Adding to this, we have worked closely with a number of community focus groups to build on these aspirations and make clear operational decisions such as:
- Boost uptake of renewable energy and purchase of “green” products.
- Make a public commitment to reduce relative emissions by 35.41 percent by 2020.
- Implement a methodology to measure our Water Footprint and offset our water consumption with social development projects in Latin America and Africa.
- Search for solutions to improve living standards in large cities.
Finally, working closely with our colleagues at the Sustainable Development Goals Fund, specifically as part of the Private Sector Advisory Board, we have also contributed to a larger interactive dialogue on how the UN and varied agencies can collaborate and best advocate for the new SDGs. As such we have also devised plans for other projects including in Colombia, linked to our core business that will provide reliable, affordable and sustainable access to water and sanitation services for vulnerable communities and as part of our broader efforts to reduce deforestation and the deterioration of water sources in the region.
Its an exciting time to think about the SDGs and their universal nature. We invite other companies to do the same.