The recently published Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, UN-Agenda 2030) require companies to “apply their creativity and innovation to solving sustainable development challenges” (UN 2015). In this context, first valuable management tools have been provided by the United Nations and cooperating institutions to facilitate a successful SDG management in the business sector. Together with VAUDE, Isabel Jandeisek and doctoral candidatures from WCGE discussed the findings of our field project “Managing the Sustainable Development Goals form a Firm’s perspective: Translating Normativity into Shared Value”.
From a firm’s perspective, the SDGs remain on a rather abstract level, resulting in the necessity for applicable frameworks that guide companies in implementing the post-2015 agenda along their core business. Two such frameworks are the SDG Compass and the SDG Industry Matrix. They are meant to support companies in realizing the SDGs in their daily business operations. In addition, the LEIZ in cooperation with the WCGE developed the SDG Market Evaluator as a complementary business tool, allowing to integrate qualitative and quantitative performance indicators into SDG management.
Guiding questions for the SDG workshop included the perception of the SDGs in the business sector as well as the evaluation of the aforementioned instruments in terms of soundness and practicability. Key findings of the SDG workshop covered on the one hand the confirmation that there is in general a strong demand in practice for applicable tools to guide companies in their management of the SDGs. On the other hand, the workshop revealed that the complexity of the SDG framework probably requires companies to take a differentiated approach for managing the SDGs along their core operations. This includes the necessity of different management tools addressing not only distinct company sizes but also varying levels of a company’s already established “sustainability performance”.
Such a differentiation in SDG management is also transferable to another key finding: applicable tools for SDG management have to provide both, a qualitative and quantitative dimension in order to address the SDGs complexity appropriately. Both findings seem to be interconnected as it was mentioned by VAUDE that a qualitative framework for managing the SDGs will most likely benefit small and medium-sized companies as well as firms with no or little experience in sustainability management. In contrast, more “experienced” and bigger corporations will rather benefit from a quantitative approach due to their more complex company structures and economic measurement systems.
The field project “Managing the Sustainable Development Goals form a Firm’s perspective: Translating Normativity into Shared Value” is being conducted by the doctoral students from the Ethics & Responsible Leadership program under supervision of Prof. Dr. Josef Wieland and Isabel Jandeisek (LEIZ).The project will cumulate with a publication in the WCGE “Reports from the Field ” series.