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Goals for good: Why the UN Sustainable Development Goals are making the world more sustainable

As creatives, we all strive for a greater purpose. To do work that is interesting and meaningful, work that will outlive us, and work that helps other humans in need. In a world full of complex challenges, where we are still fighting poverty, gender inequality, disease and climate change - how do we know what to focus on to have an impact? 

Four years ago, we found an inspiring map to enable us and our clients to do ‘good’ and work together for change. That map, was the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals became our blueprint for Isobar Good, Isobar’s global initiativededicated to social impact. The goals have shaped how we help corporate clients integrate social impact into their business and brand strategies, and how we help Not For Profit’s have a greater impact through experience-led transformation. 

In 2015, the 193 member states who make up the United Nation’s met in New York for the UN’s Summit for Sustainable Development. It was here they made history by forging a commitment and pledge to 17 goals to protect the planet, fight poverty, and create equal opportunities for all. The goals go beyond a map for us and our clients to follow. They have created a global conversation, sparked innovation and put pressure on our leaders - and our industry, to act for change. 

Founded in 1945, the United Nations is a global organisation of 193 countries who strive to maintain worldwide peace and security. The SDG’s or ‘global goals’ formed in 2015 truly are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for everyone, regardless of where you’re born. They highlight global challenges we face as society and lay out key targets to be achieved by 2030, across 17 areas that will transform our world. 

The SDG’s follow the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were eight goals adopted by the UN during the Millennium Declaration in 2000. The MDGs became the core of development efforts for the poorest nations of the world and achieved huge progress on reducing poverty, disease, lack of schooling and infrastructure - particularly in Africa. These 8 goals were an incredibly successful predecessor to the 17 SDGs and are proof that striving towards a common goal can create action and results where it’s needed most. Prior to their final agreement in 2015, the SDG’s were formed through the largest consultation process with countries and civilians the UN, and the world, had ever seen.

 

A common cause 

Establishing global goals with a commitment from 193 countries enables governments and organisations within those nations to strive towards a common cause, and move in the same direction. The SDG’s are a fantastic action plan to guide what ‘doing good’ means to us as individuals, businesses, industries and society. If we’re all working towards the same 17 development areas - we’re likely to have a bigger impact. The SDG’s have been gaining phenomenal momentum over the past five years and putting necessary pressure on global leaders to take action. 

CEO’s of our biggest brands are being looked to for their stance on sustainability, and their consumers and employees are empowered to make decisions in line with their values and views on social impact. The goals build positive peer pressure for our leaders to rally together, and sceptics underestimate the political and economic influence our leaders can have for good when working towards a common cause. 

In Australia, CEO’s from the top government, utility and financial services recognised the need to help vulnerable individuals struggling to pay their utility bills, and the slippery slope to financial distress. They recognised that people who can’t pay their water bill, usually can’t pay their phone or electricity bill either. Rather than these individual companies, some who compete for customers, launching sector specific initiatives - they came together around key SDG’s to create the Thriving Communities Partnership, a cross-sector collaboration to ensure Australia’s most vulnerable can thrive in day to day life. Working together with a holistic view has been incredibly successful for the communities and individuals they work with.

 

Collaborating for good

Having a shared conversation about the goals creates a platform for collaboration, diverse points of view and innovation. Initiatives aimed at achieving the goals is sparking a coming together of professionals, brands and sectors who wouldn’t usually work together. This cross pollination of knowledge and ideas brings new and different ways to tackle the big social problems that underpin the SDG’s. Isobar Good and the SDG’s opens a conversation with our partners to work with scientists, academics, foundations, technology companies and renowned brands from a common cause.

The networking and knowledge sharing of stakeholders such as these is imperative to achieve the goals by 2030 because of their sheer scale and complexity. The 169 sub targets of the SDG’s are interconnected and rely on the achievement of other development areas for success. We’re not able to achieve SDG No.1 ‘No Poverty’ without meeting the sub goals of SDG No.2 ‘Zero Hunger’. We’re not able to ‘Reduce Inequalities’ (No.10) without driving ‘Decent work and economic growth’ (No. 8) and we’re not able to achieve any of the goals without taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impact (No. 13 ‘Climate Action’) which the UN has as the single biggest threat to global development. 

Our recent work in the family violence sector saw us transforming the experience of women and children fleeing family violence at a shelter. As we worked with all stakeholders in this space from social workers, police, government bodies and religious institutions we drove our agenda to SDG. No. 5 ‘Gender Equality’ with simultaneous results towards No Poverty and Quality Education. Shared knowledge from these sector experts and shared results breaks through silos and cuts down doubling up work.

Five years on from the UN’s summit on Sustainable Development, it’s our job as marketers, creatives, technologists and designers to up the ante and drive impact towards the global goals. We have a unique set of skills we can, and must offer to vulnerable communities and the UN’s 2030 Sustainability Agenda. While we do this, we can forge meaningful partnerships and a global community for good that will make a difference not only for our generation, but for generations to come.

 

Kara Prosser, global director of Isobar Good at Isobar.

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