First established in 2015, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have enjoyed a second wind of popularity in the last 12 months. You may have heard politicians, policy makers, or funders refer to them far more frequently amid a renewed effort to achieve their optimistic 2030 deadline.
What are the Sustainable Development Goals?
The UN SDGs are a global call-to-action to achieve ‘peace, prosperity and protection for the planet’ by 2030.
Set by members of the UN in 2015, these 17 goals are integrated, meaning that in order to achieve positive outcomes by 2030, we need a balanced approach focusing on social, economic and environmental prosperity. It’s impossible to achieve one of these without the others.
The Sustainable Development Goals are wildly ambitious; number one is ‘to end poverty in all its forms everywhere’. They are intended to provide global alignment, structure, and strategy. The thinking is that if we want to stand a chance of achieving any of these goals we need to work together with purpose.
Why should your business care about the UN SDGs?
You may be wondering what any of this has to do with you and your company – these goals are for politicians and policy changers, right?
In part, yes. Many of the 17 goals will require commitment from governments across the world to progress. But, as an organisation that employs people, affects local communities, and contributes to the economy, you should care about the SDGs too!
We have written about the rise in a ‘purpose over profit’ mentality in business, and why investing in corporate social responsibility (CSR) will support your business goals in the long-term. Working towards one or more of these goals is a great way to align your CSR efforts with wider global goals and provide context to your actions.
If you can explain that by switching suppliers to reduce your carbon footprint, you are supporting Goal 12 of the SDGs, or that by partnering with a local charity which provides free breakfasts for vulnerable schoolchildren you are working towards Goal 2, this will help your stakeholders, employees and customers understand your actions and appreciate how local impact can drive global change.
This could even open you up to new funding opportunities, as some investors look for evidence of social impact. Many national trusts are focusing their efforts on achieving these goals. You can have find out much funding is available for each goal here.
How can employee volunteering help you work towards the SDGs?
We know that employee volunteering programmes can help you engage your staff, support your community, build your reputation as a business who cares, and even improve productivity and profits. But did you know that it could also help you work towards a few of the SDGs?
Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at every age.
While information on Goal 3 generally focuses on child and maternity health in developing countries, we shouldn’t ignore the positive effect volunteering can have on an individual’s health and wellbeing, as well as the health and wellbeing of a community during Covid type times of crisis.
Volunteering has long been proven to have a positive effect on mental and physical health, and as the recent crisis has shown, volunteers are the backbone of our communities in times of need. Without the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who helped out formally and informally over the course of the pandemic, many of society’s most vulnerable people would have been left without support.
Giving your team time to volunteer supports their own health and wellbeing, and that of the most vulnerable members of our community.
Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Volunteering is a wonderful way to gain new skills and experiences. In fact, almost a quarter (22%) of volunteers who participate in employee volunteering cite this as the reason they got involved.
Many volunteering opportunities require a level of training before volunteers can start in their new roles, especially if working with vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly. Skills-based volunteer roles may need people to apply existing skills in new contexts, giving the volunteer useful extra depth of knowledge and understanding.
Giving employees time to volunteer also lends itself to Target 4 under Goal 4:
‘Target 4.4 By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs, and entrepreneurship’
Supporting your employees to gain new technical and vocational skills through employee volunteering shows your commitment to lifelong learning, and Goal 4 of the SDGs.
Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
The most effective way to achieve any of the 17 the goals is through partnerships. At Social Good Connect we believe firmly in the importance of working together across sectors to help communities, and employee volunteering is a perfect example of this kind of partnership.
Non-profits and businesses have a lot to learn from each other. While employees are supporting non-profits to achieve their aims through skills-based volunteering, they are themselves gaining new skills and experiences.
Through employee volunteering, your organisation can work towards Target 17 under Goal 17:
‘Target 17.17 Encourage and promote effective public, public-private, and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships.’
By encouraging your employees to lend their skills to non-profit organisations, you are helping to build the partnerships and relationships that will drive the success of the SDGs.
Employee Volunteering and the SDGs
While employee volunteering specifically supports the goals above, it can actually support all 17 of them in a broader sense.
Giving your employees the choice to support the causes they believe in means that they’ll be working across a vast area of need. Maybe your team members are helping a local recycling initiative through social media, supporting Goal 12 (responsible consumption and production), or providing healthy cooking lessons to a local community group, supporting both Goal 2 (no hunger) and Goal 3 (good health and wellbeing). There are UN-friendly opportunities everywhere if you look hard enough!
Through Social Good Connect you can keep track of what causes your team are giving back to, and how they are supporting the community. Speak to us to find out how we can help you achieve your social responsibility goals and work toward the UN’s sustainable development goals!