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  • Writer's pictureJeanette Morelan

What Are The UN Sustainable Development Goals (And How Can Businesses Support Them?)

In 2015, the United Nations adopted a list of 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be reached by 2030. These goals, ranging from humanitarian to environmental issues, are a global framework for creating a more inclusive and equitable world.

Here's a short video outlining the 17 goals, which were formulated through years of research and adopted by each of the UN's member nations.

The Sustainable Development Goals require a monumental effort from governments, businesses, and ordinary citizens to not only be mindful of these requirements but to fundamentally reconsider the way we shop, govern, and do business.

Here are a few examples of businesses that have made significant progress towards the UNSDGs through innovative approaches to public awareness campaigns and significant changes to their operations.

Unilever & Hand-washing

The third UN Sustainable Development goal is to ensure healthy lives + promote well being. Writing for Harvard Business Review, former Global Social Mission Director at Unilever Myriam Sidibe shared the story of how Unilever was able to reach 1 billion people with messages about hand-washing — a key factor in improving public health outcomes, and a significant revenue stream for Unilever as a global leader in hygiene products.

Although it's difficult to measure the impact of public awareness campaigns, a randomized, controlled trial involving 2,000 families in India showed that hand-washing with Lifebuoy soap (a Unilever brand) led to a 25% reduction in diarrhea, a 15% reduction in acute respiratory infections, and a 46% reduction in eye infections.

Photo via Liz Martin on Unsplash
Photo via Liz Martin on Unsplash

Sidibe notes another surprising outcome from Unilever's commitment to working towards the company's commitment to social impact: " at Unilever, brands with a social mission, including Lifebuoy, grew 46% faster than the rest of the business and delivered 70% of revenues from 2017 to 2018."

The North Face & Conservation

Companies like Patagonia and The North Face, that cater to outdoor enthusiasts, have long recognized the value of preserving and protecting Life On Land, the 15th Sustainable Development Goal.

In 1989, The North Face, in conjunction with Patagonia, REI and Kelty, founded The Conservation Alliance, an organization dedicated to funding and partnering with organizations to permanently protect land and waterways for their habitat and recreation value.

These efforts by companies not only create social impact, but increase brand value and preserve the main driver of demand for their business — the ability to explore and enjoy the great outdoors.

Photo by Joshua Reddekopp on Unsplash

You can check out more examples of companies working to meet the Sustainable Development Goals here and check out a guide to getting started on implementing SDGs as a business here. If you're a business owner interested in addressing social responsibility at your company, get in touch with us below.

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