Danone’s mission is to “Bring Health Through Food to as Many People as Possible.” They logically focused their efforts on four SDGs related to their business: Zero Hunger, Good Health and Wellbeing, Clean Water and Sanitation.
Global communications group Vodafone produces both a sustainability report and an SDG standalone section of the communications that focuses on five main goals: Education, Gender Equality, Economic Growth, Innovation, and Climate Action. Using their networks, products, and services and through the Vodafone Foundation, the strategy focuses on goals where the business believes it can have the greatest impact.
Both of these companies focus on SDGs that are material to the business, creating credibility for potential partnerships with NGOs or other organizations. We’ve seen a trend to “overcommit,” where companies choose too many SDGs to align with, like when L’oréal committed to 14. On the other end of the spectrum, Salesforce clearly states “We do care and take action for all 17 Global Goals, but we focus our energy on education and workforce development.” Your organization might be touching on all 17, but it’s likely there are a few material to how the business operates. Focus on those for the greatest impact.
The impacts can be felt locally, but the benefit of aligning with the SDGs is that it gives legs to your sustainability program and connects you with something bigger than your organization. The SDGs make it easier for companies to link their contributions to global, regional, and national initiatives and communicate with peers and stakeholders in a meaningful way. This will educate all of the stakeholders of your vision to be part of a collective movement and that the purchase they are making, or the employer they are working for, is focused on bigger aspirations for global impact.
Once you’ve chosen a path, where possible, embed the SDGs and surrounding language into your general sustainability messaging and communications. An easy introduction would be to first incorporate into your sustainability report, as seen here in International Paper as well as their social media communication. AT&T posted a blog article to introduce the SDGs and how the company is beginning to incorporate them into their strategy. San Diego-based telecommunications company Qualcomm references the SDGs they align with where possible — in all media releases and content related to their global social impact program, Wireless Reach. They also produced a film, Power of 9, focused directly on the role of technology in achieving SDG 9. Another common trend is to incorporate SDG icons and visuals wherever possible. The UN conveniently provides all the visual assets you need.
As you integrate the SDGs into your communications, there will be a learning curve for your audience to understand the connection. But, by doing so you position your organization as an early adopter of a global movement. Once it becomes part of the communication, it can be incorporated for all audiences. Internally with CEO presentations and town hall meetings, for NGO’s at partnership events and externally where possible for communities and customers. Through your communications, new partnerships and relationships will emerge and earned media will be an outcome. Your adoption will get buy-in through organizations and stakeholders that weren’t yet on your radar — and you’ll be positioning yourself with the business community who are part of the global movement.