Linking D&I activities to the UN Sustainable Development Goals
By Jo Faragher on 31 July 2019
Many major companies – as part of their corporate social responsibility commitments – are aware of and are doing their bit to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
The SDGs were adopted in 2015, listing 17 targets UN countries should achieve by 2030. They span a commitment to get rid of poverty to clean water and sanitation and a promise of “decent work and economic growth”. Goals 5 and 10 – on gender equality and reduced inequalities – are the ones that should be on the radar of D&I professionals.
In goal 5, the UN states that “women and girls everywhere must have equal rights and opportunity, and be able to live free of violence and discrimination”. It adds that achieving this goal is “integral to all dimensions of inclusive and sustainable development”. The aim is to achieve gender equality by 2030.
And while a core element of this goal is to protect women from gender-based physical and sexual violence, it’s also about equalising earnings and increasing the quality of work roles occupied by women.
Goal 10, meanwhile, aims to empower and promote inclusion “irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic status”. From a D&I leaders’ perspective, this covers anything they do across the protected characteristics such as race and sexual orientation, as well as projects around social mobility and background.
But while we there are clear public commitments on the goals from many major companies, we don’t always hear about the D&I agenda through this particular lens. This seems like a missed opportunity, as the SDG can provide a useful framework for your D&I activities, not to mention the incentive of working towards a wider, global goal.
A number of companies have set out how they will respond to the SDG from both a gender equality and reducing inequality perspective. Consultancy PwC, for example, explains how it is working with its own clients to help them meet the goals, and how as a company it has prioritised “those we feel are most relevant for our business at the moment”. It has created a prioritisation matrix of the 17 goals that shows where it feels strongest and can have the most impact, and where it feels they are lower priority for the business at present.
Gender equality is cited as a high priority, and PwC describes how its D&I programme includes ambitious public targets for gender representation at each grade, transparency on the gender pay gap, and programmes to boost women’s career progress.
The company notes how it has banned all-make shortlists for senior hires, and its commitments to the UN’s HeForShe campaign. Reduced inequalities is also a high priority, and PwC refers to its social mobility action plan, its decision to voluntarily publish its ethnicity pay gap and its research into executive pay, among other initiatives.
Banking group Citi has also picked out seven areas which it feels to be achievable from the SDGs, including goal 5 of gender equality. Again, it discusses its diverse hiring practices and its progress in appointing female managers over the past few years. It has also recently signed up to the UK Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter. From a broader perspective, it builds on this through how it offers its banking services to give women equal rights to economic resources, access to ownership and control over land and property. Diversity charities such as Stonewall offer guidance on how issues such as LGBT inclusion can reference the SDG and actions employers can take.
Linking D&I activities back to the UN’s SDG is a great way for corporates to feel part of a global movement, but it will also help build the business case for inclusion at the very top of the organisation. Showing senior leaders how moving the dial on D&I can form part of broader global goals really demonstrates their value, and means that they don’t view initiatives in isolation or focus on narrow quotas or business targets. It is also a way to show a public commitment to diversity in a context that customers and suppliers will recognise.
There are many more examples of how organizations are taking the SDGs and making them their own. It’s not necessary to give an exhaustive plan of how you’ll tackle all 17 – focus on what you can do now. It’s not about starting from scratch, either – many of your existing and past activities will contribute in some way to those goals on gender and reducing inequality. 2030 is just over 10 years away, and every contribution is a step closer to making the world more sustainable for the next generation.
d&i Leaders is a global community of senior diversity, inclusion and HR focused professionals, looking to collaborate, network and accelerate their workplace inclusion strategy.