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Chapter 1

Understanding the Impact of the UN Sustainable Development Goals on Business

In June 2020, the United Nations Global Compact celebrated its 20th anniversary of the Leadership Summit, designed to initiate shared values and principles between the United Nations and businesses in order to advance societal goals on labor, human rights, the environment, and anti-corruption. Significant progress has been made. However, in the shadow of a global pandemic and increasing challenges on international collaboration and globalization, it is becoming increasingly clear that our ambitions and focus on results need to accelerate. We have entered the “Decade of Action”, where businesses and governments need to deliver on the 17 Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs).

Technology is cited by the UN Global Compact as one of the key levers, to ensure that the global business society is able to deliver quicker and better on the ambitions set forth by the SDG agenda. Equally, if the SDGs and associated ten principles of doing business should prevail, organizations need to understand how to embed sustainability activities in their companies and must also understand how the activities add value to their operations. Otherwise, we run the risk of local and global businesses decreasing their focus on the SDGs, as interest in the goals withers on the altar of delivering better financial results.

With this as our backdrop, Devoteam has set forth on understanding how organizations approach the SDGs, in order to map their reasons for focusing on them, and to illustrate what results they have achieved. We have talked to 15 top leaders in different organizations in Denmark and Sweden, we have conducted an online survey of almost 100 different organizations, and finally complemented this with commonly available research.