The UN Sustainable Development Goals are turning five years, and that means that we have ten years left to alleviate poverty, end hunger and ensure every citizen of the world access to decent jobs and economic growth – all while ensuring sustainable production and consumption that does not compromise climate and environmental goals.

This is an ambitious undertaking, and if it is to succeed, it is will need the combine efforts of governments, NGOs and not least businesses.

But what are the Sustainable Development Goals, and how does one join the party?

From philanthropy to business opportunities

The UN Sustainable Development Goals are a set of targets for the development of the global society to be reached before 2030. There are seventeen development goals and no less than 169 subgoals, addressing both classic development agendas e.g. clean water, human rights and eradication of poverty, as well as climate, environment, sustainable production and consumption and global partnerships.

The targets represent a radically new approach to development. Development work is no longer limited to well digging and school building. It is about sustainable growth, trade and cooperation. This means that businesses, NGOs and the public sector all have a common and joint responsibility to achieve the development goals.

The private sector is now on the forefront when it comes to making the world sustainable. But for many companies it is a foreign thought to suddenly be assigned responsibility to do “development work”.

Luckily this is not the way to approach the goals. The SDGs are not philanthropy but represent sound business practice and an investment in the future. And while the large number of goals and subgoals might initially look daunting, it means that most companies will be able to identify goals that align with their business.

And for those already on the forefront of sustainability, there are business opportunities to be found. According to the UNDP the Development goals opens up a market potential of 12 trillion dollars, and Danish and Norwegian companies are well prepared to take significant advantage of this growth potential. Many, especially large companies, are already far ahead when it comes to sustainability, particularly in sectors such as energy, water and urban development. But small and medium sized companies are more hesitant to embrace the seventeen goals into their business strategies.

How to get started on the Development Goals

There are a number of guides and tools available that can help companies get started integrating the SDGs in their business. Amongst those are the SDG Compass and this guide from the UN Global Compact.

There is also numerous networks and multi stakeholder initiatives ready to provide help and guidance to members e.g. Dansk Initiativ for Etisk handel and Etisk Handel Norge, and many more exist on a national and regional level.

External help is however no prerequisite for working with the SDGs. Here is how to get started on your own:

  • Go to the SDGs website and identify the targets that align the most with the core of your business.
  • Consider what you can do to support them.
  • Make a plan on how this can be carried out in practice.
  • If necessary, form a partnership with one or several stakeholders that can help your work have the biggest effect in the most efficient way.

Factlines can help

Factlines help companies take on the SDGs. Factlines simplifies follow ups in the supply chain, which directly underpins SDG 12 – sustainable production and consumption. Our solution is also in line with SDG 17 that emphasizes the significance of technology as a driver of capacity building and promotes public private partnerships, which was how Factlines was created and still is a cornerstone in our business.


Read more about follow ups and the SDGs at the Norwegian government website