The United Nations in September 2015 launched Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is a universal action plan to be adopted by all nations to ensure better living conditions on a healthier planet where every person can enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.
Although the sustainability goals for SMEs are listed, the progress in transition all over the world is far below the expected lines. SMEs account for the larger share of economic activity across the globe including developing and developed nations. Their role to meet the sustainability target will be of immense significance in 2019 and beyond.
For global action calls to be successful, effective local action and community support are important. Since SMEs employ the largest chunk of global workforce, tremendous potential exists in this space which can be tapped by implementing sustainable development measures and practices. The fact is businesses are yet to discover how small tweaks can make them stand out in the crowd.
A recap of the UN declared Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
- No poverty
- Zero hunger
- Good Health and well being
- Quality education
- Gender Equality
- Clean water and sanitation
- Affordable and clean energy
- Decent work and economic growth
- Industry, innovation and infrastructure
- Reduced inequalities
- Sustainable cities and communities
- Responsible consumption and production
- Climate action
- Life below water
- Life on land
- Peace, justice and strong institutions
- Partnerships for the goals
Each of the above-mentioned goals is to be achieved within a targeted time period.
Do SMEs need to care for sustainability goals?
Today’s consumers are more educated and conscious of sustainable practices and trends. With times changing fast and environmental issues seriously impacting the quality of life, consumers are more inclined towards environment-friendly products and services.
SMEs can reap the maximum economic benefits in implementing these sustainability goals by promoting decent working condition and sustainable industrialization that would reduce environmental impact.
14 Probable sustainability goals for SME:
The approach to achieve sustainability goals for SME will not be the same for all. There is no definitive guide to this. Each SME must have to look at all the 17 goals and adopt strategies to align their business practices accordingly. The following simple solutions are provided for better insight:
1. Get educated:
Educate yourself about the sustainability goals for SME and the impact that it could have by 2030. Follow relevant websites and brochures to broaden your knowledge database. Spread the knowledge among the workforce demonstrating the benefits. Keep track of what other organizations are doing.
2. Identify the goals that resonate with your business:
It may not be possible to target all sustainability goals for SME at a time. Identify 2-3 goals and map your business operations and core activities. Do not forget to keep them manageable and well within control. If required, build a team with members taking interest in philanthropic and volunteering activities who will speed up target-fulfilling processes.
3. End poverty:
Employing the locals is a trend for most of the SMEs. Training and employing local people living at the poverty level and finally adding their services to the value chain is a great way to end their poverty along with maintaining business growth.
4. Zero hunger:
SMEs can promote and encourage small-scale farming and implement the farm-to-table concept in providing food and snacks for office workers. Food items can also be locally sourced to support the local community.
5. Decent work and economic growth:
SMEs in 2019 armed with a huge workforce have a bigger role to play in achieving sustainability targets. They can create more opportunities for apprenticeship to facilitate capacity building. They are likely to promote an entrepreneurial culture and invest more in start-ups. Strict recruitment policies giving the deserving ones their due not only sets a decent work environment but also boosts business growth and that of the community.
6. Promote responsible production and consumption:
Proper preventive steps and recycling can substantially reduce waste generation and business cost making SMEs more sustainable. Being one of the UN listed sustainability goals for SME, this does not necessarily mean making huge investments. A simple audit can identify financial leakage and help you to create preventive plans to check this drainage.
7. Gender equality:
A decent working condition is not sustainable without enforcing gender equality where staff irrespective of gender would receive equal remuneration and privileges for work of similar value.
Support and services should be equal for men and women, unfortunately, it’s clear that women are not treated equally and suffer because of their gender more often than not. Establishing zero-tolerance towards violence and all forms of abuse at work is imperative to meet the sustainability target.
8. Build strategic partnerships:
Partnership with like-minded organizations will help you in implementing sustainable development strategies better which may not be possible alone. Effective collaboration is the essence of SDGs that fosters the pooling of resources creating new sustainable business opportunities.
9. Promoting good health and well-being of workforce:
It goes without saying that a healthy workforce is the most productive. Encourage staff to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Arrange for corporate wellness programs. Invite new ideas from your staff to launch smart practices to enhance their wellbeing while at work.
10. Impart quality education and training:
An important sustainability goal for SME this year is to uplift the quality of workforce through purposeful education and training. You can train local people and add them to your value chain. Educating the workforce with updated skills means more productivity and quicker return on investment.
11. Combat climatic changes:
SMEs in 2019 are striving to be the “Green Company”. Small changes in your organization can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce environmental impact. For example, the Green Travel Policy encouraging staff to adopt environment-friendly modes of transport for commutation.
Open to work from home policy to cut down travel or holding meetings on Skype and other online platforms are steps nearing to sustainability goals. If business partners, supply chain and clients add their measures, it will make a significant difference.
12. Bring in affordable and clean energy:
It is high time for SMEs to go for energy saving measures to be labeled as Green Company. They need to secure energy efficient certifications like LEED or five-star ratings. Energy efficiency is likely to be prioritized across the board in operations, electrifications and heating and cooling systems. Monitoring energy efficiency will gain more importance to reduce energy expenses and minimize carbon emission.
13. Life below water:
Monitoring the processing of raw materials and waste disposal is one of the crucial sustainability goals for SMEs this year. Industrial wastes ending up in landfills, water bodies and oceans are upsetting the marine ecology.
SMEs will have to be more conscious about the chemical constitution of raw materials, packaging and processing of products and ensure they do not cause any harm to aquatic life.
14. Life on Land:
It is not only caring about the human resource. SMEs need to practice judicious use of natural resources like land, water, flora and fauna ensuring the stability of the ecosystem. Efforts should be on the optimal use of natural resources followed by more recycling and upcycling.