A key component of the Center for Responsible Business and Leadership (CRB)’s DNA is the mission to raise awareness of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They are the universal and strategic language able to unify all of us around a common purpose of delivering a Sustainable Development agenda.

In this context, last October 17, CRB held an interactive workshop on the topic of the SDGs.

The event was part of "The Great Wave" event, organized by our partners the House of Beautiful Business, and took place at the Lisbon City Hall, thanks to the partnership the CRB maintains with Lisbon Green Capital. Our four guest speakers discussed how corporations can bring SDGs to the core of their business strategies. Guests included the Senior Strategic Advisor for Sustainable Business at BNP Paribas (Pierre Rousseau), Sustainability Manager IKEA Portugal (Ana Barbosa) and Head of Human Rights, Sustainability and Inclusion Cabinet Altice Group (Margarida Sá Costa), as well as SDG's expert and United Nations Consultant, Pedro Neves. 

Pedro Neves, CEO and founder of Global Solutions, opened the discussion by presenting the history of SDGs. The 17 interlinked goals, set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, aim to create a "better and more sustainable future for all" (United Nations Sustainable Development, 2019). The SDGs emerge from the concept of sustainable development, which consists of the three dimensions: people, planet and prosperity.  Pedro described that the SDGs complement these three factors by involving both partnerships (between institutions) and peace. In his model, Pedro calls Sustainable Development Goals 1-15 "The Game". SDG 16 represents "The Rules of the Game" and partnerships (SDG 17) impersonate "The players of the Game". 

Pierre Rousseau (BNP Paribas) made it clear that in order to achieve SDGs, methods must be developed to measure social and environmental impact. Only when these are made measurable can they gain the attention that is needed. It is the only way to ensure that environmental and social impact finds the way into the firms’ accounting books. Pierre also emphasized that sustainable development requires the collaboration of government, business and civil society, referring to goal 17 of the SDGs, which is to strengthen global partnerships. As Pedro pointed out, there is an existing investment gap of $2.5 trillion to be invested in developing countries each year. As one impactful tool to bridge this gap, Pierre presented the concept of blended finance. Blended finance refers to the strategic use of finance to mobilise private capital alongside with public finance towards sustainable development objectives.

An excellent example of how sustainability can be placed at the core of a corporate strategy is IKEA. Ana Barbosa went into depth and highlighted the different levels of IKEA's sustainability strategy. She also gave an example of how the goals can be operationalised: "By 2030, our ambition is to inspire and enable more than 1 billion people to live a better life within the limits of the planet". IKEA's goal is to democratize sustainability in such a way that living sustainably is not a question of money. The consistency with which the company pursues its strategy is also clear from the recent launch of its Buy Back service. Through this service, IKEA customers can give their unwanted furniture a second life and save precious resources. The furniture is then resold as second-hand items. This initiative will help IKEA achieve its goal of becoming fully circular and climate positive by 2030.

For Margarida Sá Costa and Altice Group, SDGs are a question of values. Community and cooperation are essential values to Altice, which is reflected in their vision: "Together has no limits”. In agreement with Pierre's remarks, it is also important for Altice to choose SDGs that match the core strategy. By doing so, companies could leverage their greatest strengths and generate the most impact for society. For Altice as a multinational telecommunications company, it is a special concern to promote digital literacy, with which they take on SDG 4 – quality education. Margarida also talked about how Altice is driving the digital transformation in Portugal and thus making an important contribution to infrastructure development and innovation (SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure).

Great topic, great speakers, great location and, hopefully, an event that was able to reinforce the SDGs as mainstream in the corporate agendas.

Have a great and impactful week!

Lukas Pahl
Católica Lisbon School of Business & Economics
M.Sc. student | Major in Business | Class of 2021

This article refers to edition #60 of the "Have a Great and Impactful Week" Newsletter.
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