If you don’t already know about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it’s time to pay attention — because your donors are taking notice. SDGs are becoming embedded in government strategy. Businesses are embracing them. Philanthropists and A-list celebrities alike are becoming SDG evangelists. If you want these funders to get on board with your cause, you may want to start thinking about how you can frame your work within the sustainable development goals.
Wait, so what are the SDGs?
The Sustainable Development Goals are 17 universal aims that build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals, while including new areas such as climate change, economic inequality, and innovation. The goals are integrated and they represent three areas of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental.
The creation process for the SDGs began in 2012, involved over 7 million people and was the biggest consultation process in UN history. They are also commonly referred to as the Global Goals and the 2030 Agenda.
How are they being used?
Since being introduced, the goals have gained momentum among the public and all three sectors - business, nonprofits, and government – with many embedding the SDGs at the heart of their social impact strategy. The Government of Canada has publicly stated it’s committed to supporting the implementation of the Global Goals, and has aligned its Federal Sustainable Development Strategy with the SDGs.
According to SDG research released by PriceWaterhouseCoopers 41% of companies plan to embed SDGs into their strategy and the way they do business. Many Imagine Canada Caring Companies have also begun to communicate their Corporate Social Responsibility through the lens of the SDGs – Teck Resources, for example, has developed a neat interactive site to highlight its alignment.
Canadian charities like Plan Canada are educating their donors about the SDGs, telling them in plain language why they should care about the movement and explaining how their impact relates to the achievement of the 17 global goals. Nonprofits have also aligned their impact strategy and communications with the SDGs, albeit the pickup is far more prevalent among charities that work at a global level.
Foundations are paying attention as well - many of North America’s largest have banded together on the SDG Philanthropy Platform to create new programs centered on the SDGs. Foundation Center believes that foundations will contribute $364 Billion to the SDGs, what they call a conservative estimate.
A Rosetta Stone for Community Partners
The SDGs are a universal call to action for social change, reaching far beyond the charitable sector. They work in the spirit of pragmatism and of partnership. The UN has identified 9 sectors of society – of which our sector touches many - as the main channels for the SDGs:
- Children and Youth
- Indigenous Peoples
- Non-Governmental Organizations
- Local Authorities
- Workers and Trade Unions
- Business and Industry
- Scientific and Technological Community
Achieving social good requires involvement from this wide variety of actors, too often separated by geography, jargon, power, and competition. Meaningful partnerships and collective impact are lofty ambitions when we are all singing from a different song book and speaking a different language (either metaphorically or literally).
To that end, consider the SDGs to be a global communication tool for your charity. A Rosetta Stone, so to speak. They can break down the walls between community partners by laying out the shared ambitions among us and provide a common language for describing social impact for everyone
Visit un.org/sustainabledevelopment to learn how your impact contributes to each of the 17 interrelated UN SDGs, and what you can do to get involved in the movement.
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