The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted in 2015 by the 193 United Nations (UN) member states. There are 17 goals which integrate economic, environmental and social impacts, and which are designed to form a blueprint for good growth, nationally and internationally, by 2030. They’re underpinned by 169 targets to help define progress.
Unlike their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs apply to developed and developing countries alike. Governments will be looking to business to help achieve the goals, which are expected to frame the agendas and policies of member states until 2030. This may include the possibility of new regulation or taxes. Governments are also likely to want to measure and monitor the effectiveness of their interventions, so business will need to be aware of national ambitions and how they contribute to them.
Our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems, such as the global goals. As a firm, we contribute to them in a number of ways. Firstly, we create economic and social value through our core services - using our people’s skills and experience to solve some of the world’s most important problems. Indeed, our market-leading Sustainability & Climate Change team (S&CC) has been collaborating with the United Nations to develop tools to help companies understand what the SDGs mean for them, as well as how to prioritise areas for action. Additionally, we contribute to the debate and play an advocacy role on a number of issues covered by the goals. Indeed, we were one of 80 companies to write an open letter to the UK government in January 2017, calling for prioritisation of the SDGs in the UK and setting out our commitment to help deliver them. Finally, we address issues directly in our operations through our approach to Corporate Sustainability and Diversity & Inclusion.
We’ve prioritised the areas we feel are most relevant for our business at the moment, applying the same criteria that we use when advising our clients. These include our S&CC team’s research into the areas where our sector has an impact, and where there are opportunities for our type of business. We’ve looked at the team’s detailed guidance about how to engage with the goals. And, we’ve also taken the scoring for the UK from our Global Business Navigator tool, which draws on over 200 data sources to score each country against each SDG target to anticipate potential areas of focus for government policy in the future - recognising that our business depends on a thriving UK economy.
We synthesised these outputs and cross-referenced them with our business activities - our client delivery, our people, our operations and our communities - to create a list of priority goals to focus on, whilst still using the full list as a ‘sense check’ to make sure that we’re helping to contribute to all of the goals in some way. We’ll keep this prioritisation under review.
We haven’t ascribed a priority level to Goal 17, however, as all of the SDGs are dependent on effective partnerships and collaborations. In solving important problems we work with all sectors of society, providing technical advice and resources as appropriate, such as our work with the UN on SDG tools, as described above. In some cases, where we believe it will advance the common good, we’ve made our intellectual property ‘open source’ – as in the case of our Total Impact and Natural Capital Accounting methodologies.
The priority we’ve initially attributed to each goal, together with key actions we’re taking to support them, are set out below. We feel we could play a positive role in championing social mobility, both in our workforce and society in general. This aligns with the high prioritisation we’ve given to Goals 4 (Quality Education), 5 (Gender Equality) and 10 (Reduced Inequalities) in particular. It also aligns with our cultural values and purpose. As a result, we intend to launch a new programme in the coming months, focused on social mobility.
We’re one of the largest recruiters of graduates in the UK, and train hundreds of students to become qualified accountants each year. We proactively promote equal access for minority groups, women and people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as encouraging awareness of social and environmental issues.
Diversity is a mainstay of our business success, so there’s a natural fit with Goal 5 and we see this as an opportunity to contribute to society, too.
The size of the professional services sector in the UK, as well as our role in helping clients of all sizes and in all sectors to grow, makes this one of our most significant areas of positive contribution.
In a diverse and competitive world, we need to make sure that we can bring the best talent to our clients, regardless of characteristics such as race, gender or social background. We pride ourselves on our approach to diversity and inclusion in our workforce, and use our work to help reduce global inequalities and imbalances, where possible.
To give our clients a great experience, we need to make sure our people are motivated to give their best and are in good health. So, health and wellbeing is critical for our people. We also address it through some of our community programmes in the UK.
Although our energy footprint is limited, we use our skills and operations to accelerate the transition to clean energy, especially as this is a high priority goal for the UK.
Although we’re not an intensive user of natural resources, we spend a significant amount with suppliers, and responsible consumption and production is a priority for the UK as a country.
Action on climate is a priority for the UK, and our Total Impact Measurement & Management (TIMM) analysis shows that greenhouse gases are the biggest environmental impact for our business, so we’ve made it central to our sustainability strategy and invested to make a step change in our impact and resilience.
Our business isn’t directly linked with oceans and marine resources, but Goal 14 is a priority for the UK so we’re taking action in our operations to make a positive contribution.
Our core business doesn’t have a significant impact on life on land directly, but it’s a UK priority so we use both our operations and technical skills to make a positive contribution.
As a professional services firm, Goal 16 is less of a priority, but our core services and operational practices both play a role in upholding effective, accountable institutions that society can trust.
As this goal is low priority for our business, we primarily ensure our operations and community engagement are deployed to help tackle poverty in the UK.
Our business isn’t closely linked to the systemic issues that drive hunger, but we contribute where we can.
We don't have a large water footprint in our direct operations. However, we monitor our consumption and have been investing to reduce it.
As a people-based professional services firm, this goal is less relevant to our business operations, although some client work can make a positive contribution.
We make a contribution to sustainable cities through our client work to help improve the infrastructure of urban areas in developing nations, and locally by upgrading our offices in the UK.