The Changing Business Climate for Climate Action and the SDGs

If you haven’t already heard of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), chances are you will soon. That’s because big business is beginning to act on climate change as an existential threat, and the SDGs are one of the primary frameworks for addressing this planetary problem.

The SDGs were created by member nations of the United Nations in 2015 to solve 17 pressing issues for the world by the year 2030. Among other business benefits, the SDGs provide a comprehensible structure for environmental action, opportunities for new partnerships, and a universal language for corporate sustainability.

The SDGs have gained more traction internationally than they have here in the States, but that’s starting to change as corporations in the U.S. wake up to the realities and risks of climate change. Right now, SDG 13, Climate Action, is among the goals gaining the most attention from business.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development places Climate Action, along with SDG 12, Responsible Consumption and Production and SDG 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth, as the SDGs most highly prioritized for action by business currently.

Over the past several weeks, some of the biggest names in business have taken active and positive positions with regard to the climate crisis.


Photo Source: United Nations

Photo Source: New York Times

Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, pronounced this past month that the climate crisis will reshape finance. Fink emphasized that BlackRock would “place sustainability at the center of our investment approach” and would exit investments in companies that “present a high sustainability-related risk, such as thermal coal producers.”

In alignment with the international goal for achieving SDGs, Microsoft also announced in January that it will become carbon negative by 2030 with the longer range goal of removing all of the carbon it has emitted since its founding in 1975 by 2050. It will also invest $1 billion to start a new fund to finance carbon reduction, capture, and removal in the next four years.

Companies as disparate as customer relationship software company Salesforce, potato products producer Lamb Weston, and convenience store chain Circle K have already incorporated the SDGs as guiding tools in their strategic planning. Among SDG focus areas, each of these companies has prioritized SDG 13, Climate Action.

More than 3,600 Certified B Corporations, ranging from food and beverage giant Danone North America to women’s clothing brand Eileen Fisher, will be using the new SDG Action Manager that is being added to the latest version of the certification’s assessment framework. Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.

As business puts Climate Action squarely in its sights, progress toward this specific goal – as with many of the SDGs – is interrelated to holistically solving all 17 SDGs. Consider that climate change disproportionately impacts indigenous peoples and people of color, so positive climate action helps end racism and achieve SDG 10, Reduced Inequalities. Work toward achieving SDG 5, Gender Equality, can go toward positively affecting climate change, as Katharine Wilkinson eloquently explains in her compelling TED Talk.

Photo Source: Medium

Here at Oliver Russell, we are centering our impact focus on Climate Action, along with SDG 5, Gender Equality; SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities; and SDG 12, Responsible Consumption and Production. We are making our new membership in 1% For The Planet the primary avenue for our climate action. Member companies donate 1% of their sales to environmental nonprofits, which currently receive only 3% of nonprofit donations in the United States. We will be prioritizing our donations to those nonprofits that have the most direct and immediate impact on climate change.

This emphasis on business achieving the SDGs makes sense; the economic resources of companies around the globe dwarf those of governments and nonprofits combined. As businesspeople, we have the ability to take leadership in solving these problems, not only because we have the resources, but also because we have been given an implicit license by society to operate, which means we have the responsibility to help solve the problems that we have helped create.

As you can see, it doesn’t matter if you’re an international technology company with a market value of billions or a small social impact branding firm in Boise, the SDGs are relevant to every business regardless of size.

We’d be interested in hearing from you about how your company is, or isn’t, integrating the SDGs into its planning and operations.  And you can be assured to hear more from us in the future about the intersection of the SDGs and business.