This blog was originally posted in Danish in Børsen on March 16, 2018. To view it there, click here
Companies around the world are trying to crack the code and create new businesses, which contribute to the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They do so because success is increasingly linked to contributing to a sustainable development. New collaboration models, ecosystems and partnerships, as well as a strong focus on innovation, can be the way forward for companies.
By Camilla Brückner, Director, UNDP Nordic Representation Office, Mads Lebech, CEO, The Danish Industry Foundation and Martin Søegaard, Partner, Deloitte Consulting
This was the message from The Danish Industry Foundation when it hosted its INSPIRE day and invited top executives from Danish business to debate and identify some of the challenges and opportunities faced in the industry. These were mostly concerned with the fact that companies can win new markets if they invest in sustainability and link their business strategies to the global challenges addressed by the Sustainable Development Goals.
With the 17 SDGs, the UN has set a goal that both citizens, businesses and authorities increasingly need to create sustainable solutions and support a sustainable future. The so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can kickstart a global race for countries and companies that have the capabilities and potential to deliver solutions that can help achieve the goals of ensuring good education and health to everyone, dealing with environmental challenges, reducing inequality, promoting gender equality, job creation and sustainable economic growth and consumption.
No less than 193 countries have reached the agreement on the 17 SDGs, as well as a wide range of related targets. Demand for sustainable solutions is thus formalized, concretized and increased throughout the world, which creates some unique opportunities for Danish companies - opportunities, which require focus and targeted efforts.
Many Danish companies possess such abilities and potentials. With quality products in energy, water, urban development, education, health and welfare, Danish companies can deliver solutions that contribute to achieving some of the roadblocks we are facing in achieving the SDGs.
There is also great will and interest among Danish companies. But there are also widespread difficulties in making the goals concrete and subsequently integrating them into corporate strategies. Especially in small and medium-sized enterprises that do not always have the capacity and resources to embark on the task, the challenge is big. So how do we help them get started?
A small piece of a big market
The SDGs open market opportunities of at least $12 trillion US dollars - a market that Danish businesses can get a piece of. However, this will require a strong focus on finding the individual company's potential and needs and then operationalize the SDGs in specific business models and products.
An obvious place to start is working with innovation in the company. Can we lift the commitment of Danish companies to the SDGs and help them develop innovative business ideas that contribute to achieving the SDGs, thereby turn the goals into action and results? There are many opportunities, and by using the SDGs as a lever for innovation, there is a great chance that one's innovation efforts match the global market needs.
The Danish Industry Foundation has, in collaboration with UNDP Denmark and Deloitte, created a new initiative called SDG Accelerator. Based on the experiences of UNDP and Deloitte, the project will specifically help a number of industrial companies to create new business based on the SDGs, thus leading the way for other companies to join the movement. The project has several components. Firstly, the project focuses on management and employee engagement in the agenda, and secondly it focuses on identifying new business opportunities and the creation of profitable products and solutions that contribute to the achievement of the SDGs.
Initially, the project focuses on the companies participating in the project. But the project will also develop some tools and methods that will encourage and enable more companies to work with the SDGs.
Business goals and Sustainable Development Goals go hand in hand
When the SDGs become part of the business strategy, it is because it is profitable while at the same contributing positively to the society we live and work in.
The Danish society is therefore increasingly looking at business as a prime mover for change and global sustainable development. A new survey among 350 executives conducted by Deloitte also shows that 92 percent of business leaders support the SDG agenda. But only 17 per cent think they have the right programs in place to help achieve the SDGs by 2030-
It is therefore not the desire that is lacking. It has come to the fore that there is no contradiction between doing business and contributing to a better world, and of course, the hope is that the SDG Accelerator can translate the desire and good intentions into successful and targeted action.
Examples of this can be found at the company Grodan. Based on Rockwool's stone wool, as we know it from the isolation of our houses, Grodan has produced a material in which you can grow vegetables. The frog recycles all water in the system and this solution reduces the amount of water used to grow 1 kg of tomatoes, from 60 liters to 4 liters, reduces CO2 emissions by 10-15 percent and increases the harvest by 15-40 percent. All this helps when we are to feed feed 8.6 billion people on earth by 2030.
New collaboration models and ecosystems
In addition to product innovations and well-designed solutions, new partnerships and collaboration models should also be considered. Novozymes is a good example of this as new ways have been pursued in pursuit of future business areas. They have established the HelloScience platform, an open innovation initiative that will establish collaborations between entrepreneurs and researchers from around the world around global challenges. In this way, large companies can use competencies and resources to help smaller businesses launch a shared focus on profit and sustainability.
The more people we get on board, the greater the likelihood that the SDGs will be achieved. New ecosystems must be created by companies, managers, employees, universities, global actors and business organizations. Collaboration across does not exist sufficiently today, and there is thus room for more national and global alliances that focus on business and sustainability.
With SDG Accelerator we will show that the SDG agenda and the SDGs can be used for innovation, business development and entry into new markets. Thus, the private sector's commitment to the sustainability agenda can also be accelerated. We therefore focus on small and medium-sized companies. We have many of those in Denmark. We need them to join the movement and win new market shares - the sooner, the better.