Episode 41: What are the Sustainable Development Goals?
Sustainable Development Goals, climate change, sustainable, fashion, inclusive, SDGs, sustainability, corporate social responsibility
Welcome to the Fashion Unearthed podcast. If you need help navigating the fashion industry sustainably, you have come to the right place. I'm your host Belinda Humphrey and my hope is to simplify the fashion industry so that businesses can make the best decisions for people, planet and product.
Hello, and welcome to episode 41 of the Fashion Unearthed podcast. Today's episode is a bit of a technical one, I guess you could say, a lot of people are unsure on where to start with a corporate social responsibility plan or even just a framework on what to include. So I thought I would talk today about the Sustainable Development Goals, what they are, why they were formed and how they can benefit your business if you use them. But before I get to that, I want to quickly mention my monthly newsletter, where I often linked to interesting or inspiring articles within the fashion and sustainability space. For example, last month, I linked to a panel discussion about cultural appropriation within fashion and how not to do that and a retailers initiative to develop an education programme aimed at empowering women garment workers in Turkey. I spend a lot of time researching and making sure I'm across what's happening for myself and also for other businesses. So I guess if you wanted a little bit of a shortcut into the things I'm finding, then you can sign up for that by heading to belindahumphrey.com.
Okay, onto today's topic, what are the Sustainable Development Goals? Essentially, there are a list of goals that governments have already agreed upon, and businesses can use to steer their sustainability efforts. Now, I did rely on the Sustainable Development Goals website a bit for this episode as I wanted to make sure I was accurate. So I've taken snippets from the website and they say that on the first of January 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals the SDGs of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at an historic UN summit officially came into force. They're a universal call to action to address all the challenges we face with the intention of meeting them by 2030. The SDGs build on the success of the Millennium Development Goals, the MDGs. But they say they go further and explicitly call on all businesses to apply their creativity and innovation to solve sustainable development challenges.
So what are the goals? Well, there's 17 of them and I want to briefly run through all of them today.
So the first one is no poverty, end poverty in all its forms everywhere.
Two, end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
Three, good health and well being so ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages.
Four, quality education, ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Five, gender equality, achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Six, clean water and sanitation, ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
Seven, affordable and clean energy, ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
Eight, decent work and economic growth. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable
economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
Nine, industry innovation and infrastructure, build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
10 reduced inequalities, reduce inequality within and among countries.
11 Sustainable Cities and Communities, make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
12 Responsible consumption and production, ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
13 climate action take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
14 Life below the water, conserve and sustainably use the ocean, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
15 life on land, protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems sustainably manage forests to combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
16 peace, justice and strong foundations, promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels and
17 partnerships for the goals, strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development.
The SDG website goes on to say that for sustainable development to be achieved, it is crucial to harmonise three core elements, economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection, which is very similar to the concept of the triple bottom line. And if you wanted a bit of refresher around what that is, I have a podcast on it as well, I think it was episode 10, which you'll find on the website or wherever you listen to your podcasts. But essentially, they say that these elements are interconnected and all are crucial for the well being of individuals and societies. And I've also talked about how there's not really an agreed definition of sustainability within fashion but on the SDG website, they had a definition, which I thought was a pretty good one. They say that "sustainable development has been defined in their eyes as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".
So it's not really expected that businesses will aim to service all 17 of those goals. The assumption is that businesses choose some of the most important ones to them or relevant within their industry and really focus on on those.
The most obvious one for the fashion industry is number 12, responsible consumption and production. So to align with this goal, you might want to change from conventional cotton to organic cotton, or perhaps even regenerative cotton, which would also align you with goal number 15 Life on the land, to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.
So like I said, it's it's really just a starting point to kind of understand where globally the UN is trying to get everyone to move to, to meet these goals by 2030. And then from there, you can kind of break them down into those three pillars of economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental protection to then start fleshing out the areas or assessing the areas in your business and understanding where you are now and where you need to go.
Finally, I just want to touch on why it matters for businesses to be looking at the SDGs. And again, I've taken the main points from the SDG website, because obviously they're the experts in this area. They say on their website that companies can use the SDGs as an overarching framework to shape, steer, communicate, and report their strategies, goals and activities, allowing them to capitalise on a range of benefits such as:
number one, identifying future business opportunities by defining growth markets for companies that can deliver innovative solutions and transformative change.
Number two, enhancing the value of corporate sustainability by strengthening the economic incentives for companies to use resources more efficiently or to switch to more sustainable alternatives.
Number three stabilising societies and markets. They say businesses cannot succeed in societies that fail. Investing in the achievement of the SDGs supports pillars of business success, including the existence of rules based markets, transparent financial systems, and non corrupt and well governed institutions.
And number four, they provide a common language and shared purpose. The SDGs define a common framework of action and language that will help companies communicate more consistently and effectively with stakeholders about their impact and performance.
Now, I know that there was a lot of information packed into this little episode, but I hope that's clarified a bit more what the goals are, how and why they were created, as well as why they were beneficial framework to use when shaping your sustainability strategies. Like I said, if you're interested in the articles and the news that I come across within my research in the fashion and sustainability space, you can sign up for my monthly newsletter on the website, belindahumphrey.com and as always, you'll find the show notes for this episode on the website too, in the podcast section, Episode 41. Thanks so much for listening. See you next time.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure that information is accurate at the time of recording, much like the fashion industry itself, this information may change.