"It was heartening to see companies are already engaging with these global challenges at the event – not just because it is good for business, but also because they feel they just should."

At Motivation we often feel that discussions around the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) only happen with an exclusive international development audience. So I was interested to attend an event at Burges Salmon last week, hosted by the UN Global Compact Network, about why and how business should engage with the Goals.

Current awareness of the SDGs is woeful in the UK and the lowest reported among all the European countries.

With that in mind, what are the Sustainable Development Goals?

The United Nations adopted a collection of 17 Global Goals and 169 targets in 2015. They aim to tackle the root causes of poverty, protect the planet and promote prosperity for all. They are intended to apply to all countries, not just developing ones, and cover a broad range of social and economic development issues.

The SDGs superseded the Millennium Development Goals and came from an international understanding that a global approach was needed to tackle poverty and inequality. They represent a wider ambition towards ensuring people around the world live better and more equitably but without damaging the planet.

And why should businesses care?

The UN Global Compact Network’s view is that long-term business and societal interests are aligned – without a future proof society, business will not thrive. It claims that embracing the Global Goals could generate $12 trillion in new business value a year across the world.

Increasingly – it says – companies will also have to get on board with this agenda in order to recruit the brightest and the best, as millennials are more attracted to employers who reflect their own values in wanting to make a positive difference to the world. 

So what about the charity sector?

It was heartening to see companies are already engaging with these global challenges at the event – not just because it is good for business, but also because they feel they just should. We also need to do much more as a sector.

We’re in a great position to raise awareness of the Global Goals beyond their impact on our causes and help to galvanise a wider population of activists who want to make a difference. That way, we might see an increase in public understanding and a greater commitment to the goals by everyone.