Cambridge University: Commercial imperatives for business to deliver on the SDGs (September 2017)

September 2017 – The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent a global strategy for achieving economic growth that is consistent with the planet’s carrying capacity, society’s basic needs and priorities, and the capabilities and stability of the economy. In this report, leading companies from the newly formed Rewiring the Economy Inquiry Group call for a compelling business narrative and a systemic approach to maximise the chances of delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Executive summary of the report

Achieving the SDGs will be both a unique opportunity and a profound challenge. To maximise the chances of delivering the SDGs effectively and efficiently by 2030, a compelling business narrative and a systemic approach are required to help shift current thinking about economic progress towards models that deliver sustainable development. Without this shift, business commitment is unlikely to be sustained and rewarded with commercial success.

Comprehensively assessing business cases across 17 Goals and turning them into a practical and inspiring agenda is challenging for business and individual leaders, but there is an emerging commercial case for moving towards a sustainable economy. This report shows that there are strong indications of robust commercial incentives to see the SDGs succeed, and for business to help deliver them. Not only are there sizeable growth opportunities associated with implementing the SDGs, but failing to do so would undermine business continuity and stability.

Given the significant interdependencies between the SDGs, and their scale and urgency, cherry-picking the SDGs that have the easiest business case would be insufficient and potentially counterproductive. A more holistic approach is needed, whereby the SDGs are presented as a vision for the future of business in society that is capable of: inspiring interest and creativity, identifying opportunities for future growth, and framing strategy for difficult trade-offs and problem solving. Companies will have to focus on a systems approach to actively help ‘rewire’ the operating context.

Read the entire report from Cambridge University here.


Source: University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL). (2017). Towards a sustainable economy: The commercial imperative for business to deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Cambridge, UK: the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.

Posted in SDG - Sustainable Development Goals.