The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) serve as a global framework that sets key milestones for sustainable development and guides participation through methods of monitoring and measurement. There are seventeen topical goals ranging from access to healthcare and gender equality to poverty alleviation and clean energy. This comprehensive set of indicators enables the distribution of knowledge and crosspollination of silos within an organisation. Knowledge sharing promotes transparency and encourages communication between decision makers and strategic partners. Goal 7 expressly focuses on the international need for reliable and renewable forms of energy, while emphasising access to affordable energy sources as a human right.
The SDGs’ targets for the upcoming decade include the following goals:
Ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services.
- Increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.
- Double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency.
- Enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil-fuel technology, and promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology.
- Expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all in developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small-island developing States, and land-locked developing countries, in accordance with their respective programmes of support.
These goals have been described as ambitious and aspirational by some and motivating by others, the key here is to catalyse effective solutions to many of the world’s most pressing issues in a relatively short time period. Åsa Persson’s article for the World Economic Forum explains, “Agenda 2030 has proved surprisingly effective at uniting the countries and people of the world. The challenge now is to translate that unity of purpose into strong national action to achieve the goals by 2030.”
In July 2016, I attended the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on the SDGs to further learn about an integral aspect of the framework: multi stakeholder partnerships. Cross-sector collaboration and alliance building between private energy entities and public multinational organisations lend purchasing power to unlock key value chains. The primary goal of the forum was to identify how to maximise active participation among the 193 UN Member States and countless civil society groups, while incentivizing compliance through channels of collective impact.
Interactive tools continue to be developed in order to harmonise data and create a common language for stakeholders, researchers, and policymakers to use. The Sustainable Energy For All Initiative is creating “a series of ‘heat-maps’ to show leaders where they can make the biggest and fastest inroads towards these goals. These ‘heat-maps’ also show where progress is happening – so that we can replicate the success of others and help leaders in government, business, and civil society to make the right choices.” Sulitest is an online sustainability literacy test made available to company staff, volunteers, and student researchers at universities to synthesise the language and concepts used within the field to drive awareness.
So what does this mean for commerce now that Member States are pivoting towards increasingly renewable sources of energy? With the International Energy Agency projecting a 37% increase in energy demand by 2040, the true measurement of success will be when the demand is met with diminished international investment impediments. Simon Mainwaring concludes in Forbes, “By aligning your business’ purpose around the SDGs, whether it’s one, seventeen, or somewhere in between, you can be sure you’re positioning your company for meaningful collaboration and sustainable growth.”
Written by Olivia Dufour