UN Sustainable Development Goals

How the UN Sustainable Development Goals can align with your ethical business

It might seem like an insurmountable task but your business values can align with those of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. By taking small steps you can make big changes that will positively impact your workplace and your community.


Here’s how you can do it.

What are the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

Conscious of the need to tackle climate change, inequality and other troubling universal trends, global leaders considered how organisations could work together to reshape business as we know it. As a result of these far reaching discussions all 193 UN member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a blueprint for peace and prosperity.


Let’s break down the most pertinent Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and briefly explore how your ethical business can promote them. However, before we go any further, I’d like to outline the six major global transformations that, once achieved, will demonstrate successful delivery of the 17 SDGs.


1. Education, Gender and Equality
2. Health and Wellbeing
3. Clean Energy and Industry
4. Sustainable Food, Land Use, Oceans
5. Smart Cities and Transport
6. Digital Technologies and E-Governance.

How you can adapt the Sustainable Development Goals

Not every SDG will be relevant to the purpose of your business but there may be a few you can embed into your everyday practice. You can find the full list of Sustainable Development Goals here. For now, let’s explore a selection of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Goal 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing - to ensure healthy lives and wellbeing for all

Health and wellbeing is more than organising a weekly stress-relieving yoga class for your team. It’s about respecting the work/life balance everyone craves by offering flexible working conditions and treating each member of staff as a whole person with their own unique needs.


#designtip – review your work policies and procedures. Listen to your team and try to find ways to incorporate healthier, more flexible working practices that benefit you and your employees.

Goal 4 – Quality Education

The UN is committed to ensuring that everyone benefits from a decent education and enjoys life-long learning opportunities. By offering your employees and co-workers the chance to learn new skills, further their career and benefit their personal life, they can reach their potential, and it can only be good for business too.


#designtip – make learning fun. Offer your employees more than standard training modules geared towards career enhancement. Talk to your team and help find a way they can engage in interesting, life-affirming learning opportunities.

Goal 5 – Gender Equality

As a female business owner it is my responsibility to ensure that women make up 50% of the workforce, are paid the same as their male counterparts and enjoy a dignified, flexible working environment.


#designtip – review your current policies and procedures for anything that may discriminate against women and amend your practices to reflect the most up to date government legislation. This could include, among other areas, flexible working, decent maternity leave and equal pay. You could also develop training that addresses workplace discrimination.

Goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy - to ensure access to affordable and sustainable energy for all

The climate emergency has been a wake up call for businesses everywhere. There are lots of small things you can do to reduce harm and develop your green credentials. I recently wrote a #designtip post about turning Lil Creative Studio into a Green Design Business »


#designtip – start by talking to Green Small Business about an Environmental Management System (EMS). Their expert support and guidance could help you identify the environmental impacts of your business and develop an action plan to reduce your carbon footprint and adopt a greener, more sustainable energy supply.

Goal 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth - to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all

There are plenty of opportunities to make a meaningful impact in your business. In terms of promoting economic growth, it is our duty to create a healthy workplace where people can support themselves and flourish.


#designtip – if you can, commit to paying the Living Wage, bearing in mind the cost of living and other factors that affect quality of life.

Goal 10 – Reduce Inequalities

Inequality is growing, affecting 70% of the world’s population. This startling fact makes true global sustainable development seem more unobtainable than ever. Invest in your team members so that they can enjoy a life of dignity and respect. Whether your business is a small enterprise or a large corporation, you can offer support to clients, customers and staff by giving them a voice in the workplace.


#designtip – plan future projects that are more inclusive and promote opportunities for those less well off. Offering decent terms and conditions for your staff team is a good place to start.

Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities & Communities

We know that a sustainable community is one that is environmentally conscious, socially considerate and adapts to economic changes by providing support for everyone, regardless of status. The great news is that we can all affect positive change in our own community by taking small steps.


#designtip – we can directly affect positive change in our local communities by shopping locally and supporting our community groups and charities. Review how you source and purchase your business supplies and choose local providers as and when practical.

Goal 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production - to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Thankfully, this is an SDG that can be easily employed in the office. We are more aware than ever of how crucial sustainable consumption is to the future of our planet. The good news is that there are plenty of innovative solutions that can help you reduce your consumption.


#designtip – instead of leaving your devices on standby mode, switch them off instead. Use recycled paper and use it wisely, only printing what is essential.

Goal 13 – Climate Action - taking urgent action to tackle climate change and its impacts

If we fail to make a difference to how we live and run our businesses, global temperatures will increase and cause irreversible damage. It only requires a few simple steps to lower your emissions which will not only save the planet but save you money in the long run. Why not start with an energy efficient website?


#designtip – delete old files, folders and images to save up space and lower carbon consumption.

Goal 17 – Partnerships for the Goals

The goals are big thinking and far reaching in their approach but for small businesses they may seem overwhelming and feel out of touch. By working with like-minded businesses and supportive communities you can successfully achieve at least one, or more, of these goals. The more people who work towards them the more positive a future we can all enjoy.


#designtip – make a start by seeking out support from communities like Ethical Hour and SDG Changemakers. Remember, it’s a journey, so take your time and do what you can.

I hope this guide has bridged the gap between the enormity of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and how your business can do its part to create a greener, more sustainable world.

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