Just a Drop Founder Fiona Jeffery OBE discusses why The UN Sustainable Development Goals matter to us all

'I’ve just returned from the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly in Chengdu, China, a gathering of 1,300 people from 134 countries largely drawn from government and international travel and tourism organisations.

Amid a busy agenda, including voting in the next UNWTO secretary general, there was a major debate on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What are these and why are they important to the business community? Unlike the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs were created through the widest consultation across government, business and civil society to create a framework that could unify all behind an agenda aimed at managing growth, and not at the cost of our environment or civil society.

They create a set of common global standards behind which we can all unite and shape a collective roadmap.

There are 17 goals, many of which can can apply to all businesses across all industries. There will always be a select number that closely relate to any particular sector, and where businesses can make a valid contribution.

In particular, the SDGs that apply to businesses across all industries are:

SDG 5 Gender Equality

SDG 8 Decent work and economic growth

SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production

SDG 13 Climate Action

SDG 15 Life on Land

How can the business community make an impact? That is easy to answer.

Every business, no matter how large or small, should assess the SDGs and identify where the business can make a genuine contribution. Every business plan should make reference to the SDGs somewhere in current and future planning.

This forces one to think how a business can make a valuable contribution and, believe me, such is the power of this framework that with some concerted thought you won’t find it difficult.

If it is a challenge to identify real steps beyond what is already being done in your organisation, look at partnerships with others which can increase your impact and contribute significantly to theirs.

For example, Just a Drop is a community development organisation. It’s not a major corporate with vast budgets, but it does directly impact no less than six of the SDGs 1-6 and significantly influences five others: 8, 10, 13, 15 and 17.

Empowering organisations with such delivery grows your own impact and increases that of others and brings you closer to the coalface, which can be enlightening, rewarding and motivational for employees.

So my challenge for everyone in business is to take up the Sustainable Development Goals and integrate sustainable development into your strategic plans.

There isn’t a successful business in the country that can’t make a positive contribution to making this world a better place for you, your family, your business, your industry and the planet.

Henry Ford said: 'Vision without execution is just hallucination', but 'coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, working together is a success'.

Believe me, it’s the best long-term investment you’ll ever make.'

Fiona Jeffery OBE, is the Founder of Just a Drop, Chair of the WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, and a member of the UNWTO World Committee for Tourism Ethics

The UN Sustainable Development Goals

  1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation
  10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
  11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development