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The 5 biggest challenges in UN's SDG's for companies

The five biggest challenges that prevent companies from contributing to UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2015, 193 nations signed a collective partnership agreement to achieve 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and ensure peace and prosperity for all people on earth – now and in the future – and at the very latest on the official deadline in 2030.

17 SDG’s that we all have a stake in: Governments, Public Institutions, Corporate Businesses, Unions – even individual people.

We all know the world is changing fast. We see the consequences of decades of industrialization and growth, distribution of resources, condition of life, and the legacy we are leaving for the coming generations.

We’re talking about hyper complex problems that requires ambitious goals – and most of all – action.

And action is the focal point of the five biggest challenges that prevents companies from contributing to the SDG’s.

Because, whilst information about the 17 SDG’s is readily available, the amount of concrete suggestions on how to deal with the challenges that lies in the wake of the SDG’s, is severely lacking.

In the following we go over these five challenges.

Challenge No. 1: Time and Resources for Development

Most companies prioritize development but many struggle with lack of time and resources.

Therefore, development easily becomes downsized in favor of daily operations. And it makes sense, because daily operations are essential to ensure the company’s survival.

At the same time, it is paradoxical, because in a fast-changing world development is essential, or else you’ll be beaten by the competition, technologic advances or similar.

To work on the SDG’s is to develop. Often, we’re talking analysis and visualization of a company’s impact on one or several SDG’s.

It’s time-consuming and for some fundamentally transcending organizational layers and company DNA.

The challenge is therefore how companies can work effectively and continuously on the SDG’s without sacrificing development over daily operations.

Challenge No. 2: Involving many employees and changing behavior

Development requires involvement and engagement.

It is easy to define company goals and strategy but hard to create real excitement and sense of ownership with the people who are going to put it into practice.

Especially in large companies the connection between strategic intention and concrete actions can easily become detached because the employees are not tuned in on the purpose.

And exactly the purpose behind the changes you want to create is essential for the individual employee.

It’s all about the big why. Why is it important to the world that our company works on the SDG’s? Why is it important to the company? Why is it important to me?

If you understand the big why you are much more likely to take ownership of your actions – because you understand the purpose and because you see the connection between what you do and how it fits with the combined results of the company.

Many companies struggle to create the necessary motivation because the strategy and the actions that are meant to fulfill the strategy is not concrete enough, whilst the purpose remains unclear.

The challenge is therefore how companies can effectively set the scene and get everyone involved to understand and believe in the big why.

Challenge No. 3: Conveying knowledge about the SDG’s

There is not a lack of knowledge about the SDG’s. There is, however, a great task of getting knowledge and understanding about each SDG to spread out within the company.

Because working on the SDG’s means working on the company’s function and whichever changes that can be made to it, a lot of people will need knowledge and understanding about the individual SDG’s and their purpose.

For instance, each SDG has a set of sub-goals, which the company must commit to in some shape or form. Across all 17 SDG’s there are a total of 169 sub-goals and hundreds of indications.

Furthermore, there is the question of connecting the SDG’s the company want to work on with the big why.

The challenge is therefore how companies can effectively spread knowledge and purpose about the SDG’s throughout the company.

Challenge No. 4: Turn political plans and strategies into reality

The 17 SDG’s is a gigantic call to action for all companies around the world. It is a reaction to the 20th century’s business paradigm.

Business as usual is no longer enough – what is needed is sustainable development and the necessary changes to solve the hyper complex problems we’re facing in the 21st century.

We’re dealing with a business paradigm where we know the problems but don’t have the answers. And many companies are understandably struggling in their search for answers.

But what is required is a new way of practicing development – a way in which the purpose is not limited to upgrading qualifications, projects and courses, but instead made continuous and centered on creating the necessary changes that will develop the business sustainably.

The challenge is therefore how companies can effectively adapt to the 21st century business paradigm, where business as usual is no longer enough.

Challenge No. 5: Produce the necessary work culture

Finally, the solutions to the 21st century’s hyper complex problems, including the SDG’s, demands that companies work purposefully to create the necessary work culture.

Because without staff that is geared towards continuous development, and without an organizational structure that allows influencing development initiatives across company layers, you will be practicing business as usual. And that will bring you nowhere.

The SDG’s are not going to be met by practicing business as usual.

The challenge is therefore how companies purposefully can create the right work environment and work culture to fit the business paradigm of the 21st century.

Your company and the SDG’s

Are you responsible or partly responsible for the implementation of SDG’s in your company – and do you recognize one or several of the five challenges?

  • Time and resources for development
  • Involving many employees and changing behavior
  • Conveying knowledge about the SDG’s
  • Turn political plans and strategies into reality
  • Produce the necessary work culture

At Acadal we work with companies that are purposefully working to create the necessary changes to become more sustainable whilst staying competitive.

The companies we work with acknowledge the challenges of today demands new answers and that part of these answers must be found across organisational layers.

It is all about getting the whole company engaged in the solutions to the business challenges you are facing.

That is why we’ve developed Challenge Based Development and what we help companies accomplish every single day.

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