The language of sustainability can seem like an alphabet soup of acronyms, making the very personal work we do feel rather impersonal. SDG. UN. GRI. SRS. Despite the jargon, these are acronyms that connect businesses back to one central goal – make the world a more just and secure place for all.
The Corporate Sustainability Collaborative (CSC, just to add one more acronym to the heap) hosted its Quarterly Meeting in early September, focusing on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how businesses can make lofty goals like these important parts of a corporate responsibility program.
Jami Haaning from Engie Insight provided the initial overview of the SDGs and outlined ways in which businesses have worked key Goals into every aspect of their work – from raw materials to the end of life of a product or service. Her presentation, with specifics of how businesses can set their own goals, is available here.
The goals this workshop focused on were:
- Good Health and Well Being
- Affordable and Clean Energy
- Reduced Inequalities
- Sustainable Cities and Communities
- Responsible Consumption and Production
- Climate Action
Breakout groups brainstormed tactics for one goal their organizations could set to make the greatest impact. Ideas bubbled up from the groups, including:
SDG 3 (health and well-being):
- Create a corporate Wellness Committee that oversees health-related initiatives like these below, and ask for input from employees not on the committee
- Company purchases healthy snacks (like fruit) for the office
- Use EcoChallenge to encourage employees to be healthy, with FitBit as prize
- Sponsor a company team for Bike More Challenge or other active transportation advocacy events
- Psychiatric/mental health counseling included in benefits
- “Total Rewards Package” includes non-traditional benefits such as meditation packages, quiet space, yoga classes, fitness center, locker rooms in the workplace
- Program for logging activity levels
- Use safety committee to promote health/well-being and its effects on safety (i.e. awareness of lack of sleep and its risks on the job)
- Offer adequate levels of vacation, and structure teams to allow people to use time away from work
SDG 7 (energy):
- Donate employee time to serve on non-profit boards of organizations advancing clean and/or affordable energy (such as Earth Advantage or Community Energy Project)
- Promote Earth Hour at your place of employment; this is a global challenge to shut the lights off for one hour, the next one is: 8:30-9:30 March 30th, 2019
- Donate employee time to volunteer with groups like Community Energy Project that install weather-stripping and plastic on the windows for older residents, or those with disabilities. For those able to do the work themselves, CEP provides training and supply kits.
- Encourage employees, friends and employers to offset energy usage through carbon offset programs for natural gas and electricity. This puts promotion and assurance of on-going biogas and wind projects into the hands of the people for relatively low cost. Smart Energy, Blue Sky and PGE’s offset options are programs Portland businesses can consider.
- In Portland, companies could promote employees getting a Home Energy Score by off-setting the cost and then interviewing these employees and featuring the learnings/experience in a company-wide communication forum. This makes the concepts of energy efficiency seem more relevant when your house gets an efficiency score.
SDG 10 (inequality):
- Hold job fairs in low-income areas and rural areas to attract new and more diverse set of applicants
- Hire workers from disadvantaged communities (example: Portland companies’ “We Hire Refugees” commitments)
- Eliminate common barriers to employment for people of different abilities / backgrounds (example: remove higher-education degree requirements for non-technical jobs)
- Make workspaces accessible and accommodating
- Conduct “blind” hiring processes, where names of applicants are not shown to hiring managers, only qualifications
- Promote workers from within a company
SDG 11 (sustainable cities):
- Offer inexpensive or free access to public transportation for employees
- Offer employees incentives to use active transportation methods (biking, walking, riding a skateboard) to the office
- Businesses with park-like space (courtyards, outdoor spaces) can open them up for use by the public
- Use the power of your business with local / state / federal government to advocate for policies that advance sustainable cities. Sign on to coalitions of businesses working for equitable transportation, urban design, public spaces, or other urban livability improvements.
- Banks and investors can lend to projects with sustainable development goals and using sustainable technologies in their design or business operations.
SDG 12 (consumption):
- Switch to paperless processes to reduce paper waste and storage needs. (ex. NW Natural has worked on a comprehensive paper reduction program.)
- Update purchasing requirements to prefer products with reduced packaging and made from post-consumer recycled materials.
- Switch to reusable dishware in office kitchens / breakrooms and use catering companies that provide reusable dishware.
- For manufacturers, work on closed loop systems.
- Educate coworkers, friends and family members on sustainable consumption choices through programs like EcoChallenge.
SDG 13 (climate change):
- Move company’s power consumption to sustainable sources (wind, solar) with the help of local utilities
- Work with building managers/owners to convert office or facility lighting to energy-efficient options, such as LEDs
- Work to instill resilience (being able to cope with loss of water or power, minimize impacts from potential natural disasters) in the company’s supply chain and operations assets
- Have the company advocate for cheaper, easier access to sustainable energy with utilities, local and state governments
Many businesses are already using the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)’s business indicators to track actions like these, and the SDGCompass.org website offers a handy list of key GRI Indicators for each Goal.
To participate in a second presentation of this workshop, attend the Portland GoGreen conference on Oct. 10th – use the Corporate Sustainability Collaborative’s coupon code (CSC30) to get 30% off your registration.