Would Sustainable Development Goals Work for SMEs?


According to Ole Lund Hansen, Chief, Business of Tomorrow at the UN Global Compact, companies and investors play a central role to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He spoke in the Sustainable Business Day, a Nordic business conference held in Stockholm on 19 April. Currently, however, there is a gap between current business performance and the required performance in addressing global needs, claimed Hansen. He challenges companies to benchmark their goals against the needs of the society that their business could address, that is, advance sustainable development through core business.

In the conference, we heard examples from companies like Ericsson of their approach to SDGs. The multinational IT corporation have adopted SDGs as the framework for measuring their impact on the society. In order to ensure the progress, each of the company’s top managers have adopted one of the goals, thus becoming its ambassador.

What seems natural and logical for big international corporations might sound remote and even exotic to small and middle-sized enterprises (SMEs). How could a company with operations in one or two countries tackle global challenges?

The finesse lies in diversity. Many problems – even the global and enormous ones – are to be solved on a grassroots level. A smaller company might lose in quantitative resources, but can very well be more flexible, efficient and innovative in identifying local solutions. So localise it!

Apart from different approaches and players, we need partnerships: large corporations with smaller companies; companies with public organisations; and, what is more, people’s movements and non-governmental organisations. If we succeed, one of my visions has come true:  vast majority of companies are purpose driven, and use their resources to develop solutions for the good of the people and the planet. Those who fail to do so might soon lose their social licence to operate.