As the expectations of businesses evolve in the new era of the SDGs, businesses need to be accountable for maximising positive development outcomes. So, what does this mean for you and your social enterprise?
We’re less than a decade out from the finish line for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and it’s time to put our initiatives, businesses, and impact in overdrive.
There’s just one problem. A PWC study indicated that 71% of businesses made plans to engage with the SDGs—but only 13% have identified tools necessary to assess their impact against them.
It’s great to want to support sustainable development and curb poverty, but without clearly defined aims, impact measurement, and quality reporting, accountability could be an issue and 2030 may not end up being what we all hope and dream it will.
With this in mind, we’ve come up with 5 steps for how to keep your social enterprise accountable to the SDGs.
5 Steps for How to Keep Your Social Enterprise Accountable to the SDGs
1. Understand the SDGs
It’s likely that you’re already familiar with the sustainable development goals, but for accountability’s sake, it may be time to reacquaint yourself with them. For many, the past year has been focused on one thing: social enterprise survival. Amidst this period, it’s become much easier to focus on the day-to-day than your once well-defined and highly prioritised commitment to the SDGs.
Where to start? Have a look at the Sustainable Development Goals Report from July 2020.
2. See Where Your Organisation Fits In, Define Priorities
After refreshing your memory with the SDGs and taking a look at where we currently stand, you’ll likely realise that the achievement of some of these goals is now more pressing than ever.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated many social concerns, including underemployment, disruption to health services, education suspensions, increased risks of child labor, and a rise in global poverty—the first since 1998.
You may now play a new role in tackling some of the SDGs, or will have an impact that is now more necessary than ever. Revisit or redefine your priorities, and consider taking a more urgent role in achieving them.
3. Set Goals
It’s commendable that you want to provide health services in your spot on the globe, but if you’re doing so to address one or several of the 17 goals, be sure that you’re absolutely clear on what you hope to achieve by doing so.
Many of the terms used in the SDGs are difficult to define, and even more difficult to measure and monitor. That said, try to shy away from ambiguous or broad goals and instead develop well-defined key performance indicators (KPIs) so that driving, evaluating, and reporting on your impact is not only a more streamlined process but also helps to provide some assurance that you’re accountable to the SDGs.
Once you’ve established a rejuvenated commitment to the SDGs, it’s time to embed it anywhere you can. Take a holistic view and see if and where the SDGs can fit into all levels of your organisation—be it your business model itself, your supply chain, your internal operations or even your community.
Also, get connected. If you’ve ever made a personal change—quitting smoking, running 3kms a day, trying out that new art hobby—you might already realise that the achievement of goals is much more difficult in isolation. When it comes to the SDGs and accountability, the best thing you can do is share who you are and what you’re accomplishing (or hoping to accomplish) with others.
This could take many forms: whether through sharing your SDG-related goals and achievements with your team, customers, or community; developing partnerships that will help contribute to the SDGs; or simply joining Social Change Central as a member so that relevant opportunities and SDG-oriented action will come straight your way (no need for hours of researching).
We need collaborative and collective action. And the achievement of the SDGs by the end of the decade needs it, too.
5. Report and Communicate Your Impact
Accountability to the SDGs hinges upon being able to evaluate and communicate your impact. As a social enterprise, you may not have a dedicated sustainability expert or an endless amount of data, nor will you likely play a role in national or regional SDG reporting. However, your contribution to Agenda 2030 is definitely worth measuring and sharing.
Fortunately, for those with limited time, team bandwidth, and resources, there are several valuable tools out there to help.
- The SDG Compass platform has tools and indicators which can help you measure and report your contribution to the Goals.
- B Lab has also developed a free impact management tool to evaluate your organisation’s contribution to the SDGs.
- The SDG Tracker is a free, open-source tool that allows users to track and explore progress through interactive data visualizations.
- GRI is one of the main bodies associated with SDG reporting, and they provide many free resources.
Final Thoughts on How to Keep Your Social Enterprise Accountable to the SDGs
Social entrepreneurship will play a significant role in the achievement of the SDGs. In fact, in many targets, social enterprises outperform enterprises from the private sector.
To maintain our significant contribution, remaining accountable to these SDGs is essential. It all starts with understanding the 17 goals and our place in them, before being able to use measurement and data to connect our impact to the achievement of SDGs. Then, it’s up to us to brag and boast and get our teams, stakeholders and communities talking about the SDGs with us.