Leaders from around the world recently committed to 17 ambitious development goals for the next 15 years. These 17 goals, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replace the Millennium Development Goals which the United Nations committed to in the year 2000.
While there are many questions about whether the more ambitious SDGs will be able to achieve what MDGs could not, there are signs of better preparedness. This time around, there has been proactive engagement with various stakeholders. The SDGs focus on collaboration between governments, civil society and private sector, which in itself is unique. The emphasis on the role of private sector in realising these goals is evident from the fact that the UN has actively engaged with business leaders on SDGs.
The SDGs are set in a socio-economic environment of rapidly growing economies in Asia and Africa, rising inequality and the impact of climate change. In this post, I will focus on four specific goals which address these issues in the Indian context.
SDG 8 – Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
Targets under this goal talk about sustained economic growth, labour intensive sectors, decent work, entrepreneurship, labour rights and equal job opportunities.The Indian economy is challenged by a very high employable population, disparity in employment opportunities based on caste and gender, and widespread disregard for the rights of workers.For India’sequitable growth, the private sector needs to commit itself to providing equal opportunities in the workspace. It also needs to the respect rights of workers across its supply chain.
SDG 9 – Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
This goal has targets covering human well-being, equitable access, affordable credit and integration of small enterprises in value chains and markets. This goal cuts across national initiatives like Make in India, Smart Cities, Digital India and Jan DhanYojana. This goal intends to push for an ecosystem approach where industrial growth aspirations respect people and the planet.
SDG 12 – Sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Targets under this goal talk about reduction of waste across supply chain, reduced emissions, supporting sustainable consumption lifestyles and promoting local procurement. The private sector in many cases supports unsustainable consumption patterns under the pretext of market demand. While environmentalists across the world are pushing companies to go green, consumers are also slowly becoming conscious of their environmental footprint.
SDG 17 – Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
One of the most significant targets under this goal is the call to support multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs). It’s crucial for diverse business stakeholders to come together and agree on industry specific common sustainable agenda. MSIs for sustainable palm oil, cotton, cocoa, tea and coffee have been quite successful in some countries.
It’s also interesting to note that many of the 17 goals are aligned to India’s National Voluntary Guidelines on Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business launched in 2011. It reiterates the fact that social well-being and economic growth have to go hand in hand.