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Setting Sustainable Development Goals

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In March, the Financial Communications Society and the United Nations Foundation co-hosted an event featuring marketing, communications and sustainability experts to address how businesses and institutions are embracing the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) through their brands.E_2016_SDG_Poster_all_sizes_without_UN_emblem_Letter

Instead of going through the motions and exchanging business cards, the experts were asked to “exchange cell phones.” Our cell phones tell a lot about us, solely by the apps we download. As professional communicators, our quest is to find a story that breaks through the noise and trends across all platforms, but we can’t do that without fully understanding how our audience is already perceiving us, how they want to receive information about us, and what matters the most to them.

So, how can brands start embracing UN’s 17 SDGs and truly make an impact? Here are some ideas discussed during the event to get you started:

  • Don’t “check your humanity at the door.” Creating a culture of inclusion is a conscious choice, and at Mastercard, they encourage “infusing compassion into your daily business,” noted Seth Eisen, senior vice president of External Communications. Sometimes making a change from the inside out is the best way to start, and it starts with employees.
  • Align SDG with your business goals. As evidenced by the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, contributing to the greater good is a critical component in building trust among key stakeholders, and it shouldn’t be ignored. Before weaving SDGs into a business’ DNA, it’s important not to lose sight of the overall business objective. If an SDG doesn’t ladder up to real business goals, it might not make sense to engage in it.
  • Find out what the “Return on Equality” is for you. Narrowing the global gender gap in five sectors alone (telecoms, contraception, child care, water, energy) could unlock $300 billion in incremental annual spending by 2025, according to BNY Mellon’s “Return on Equality” report. Jyoti Chopra, BNY Mellon* chief diversity officer and head of Global Citizenship and Sustainability, presented several ways to engage in gender-lens investing: investing in women-led businesses, companies that promote gender diversity in their workplaces, or companies advancing gender equality through products and services.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew. The SDGs map out a number of worldwide issues that need to be addressed by 2030, but it might not be feasible to tackle them all, and certainly not all at once. Choose one or two SDGs that align with the company’s goals and values and identify where the company can make a real commitment to move the needle towards achieving those goals.
  • Share your stories with the world – whether the organization is addressing sustainability through developing smart cities, or financing women-led businesses, these stories matter and there are many ways to communicate the progress made and who has been impacted. Storytelling is an important part of inspiring others to set their own Global Goals, be it through traditional and social media, 3rd party validation, sponsored events, virtual reality, etc.

If your organization can’t already answer the question What are you doing to embrace the global goals?, what are you waiting for? The year 2030 will be here sooner than you realize it, and the UN’s 17 SDGs present businesses with a clear-cut “global to-do list” to advance ending poverty worldwide, protect the future of our planet, and create equal opportunities. Your move.

Christina Dello Buono is an account supervisor, Financial Services sector, Edelman New York.

*Edelman client

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