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In January 2016 the United Nations enacted the sustainable development goals, the SDGs. Set out way too ambitious as some voices were saying. But don`t we need exactly this kind of effort to get things rolling concerning sustainability on a big scale? We take a closer look at the situation a year after the SDGs came into force and find it a good and promising start. From now on the crucial part will be to expand this effort on a small and large scale and to undermine and support it with corresponding arguments which have to be communicated.  

The UN agenda 2030 for sustainable development contains 17 specific goals – such as fighting hunger and poverty, supporting gender equality, water and health as well as peaceful communities – which have to be reached by the community of states by 2030. It is an important contribution for the economic development, the human well-being and the environmental protection on a global, national and local level. Apart from that it includes aspects like peace, rule of law and political governance which are fundamental for a sustainable development.  

Attached to the enactment of the goals was a feeling of hope for real change which peaked during the United Nations framework convention on climate change in November 2016. During the conference a joint effort of politics and economy was sealed. This starting point is crucial to achieve a closer interconnectedness of the private and public sector and hence joint influence on the supply chain of both industry and production. 

Tight collaboration is needed, not a one-man-show

Sustainable action is not a one-man-show. Even if some government officials across the Atlantic would like it that way many companies have realized by now: Corporate social responsibility as for example a sustainable supply chain and the commitment to renewable energy not only pays off ecogologically but also economically. This applies to both large and small firms.

That things are changing can already be noticed a year after the enactment of the SDGs when taking a look at some examples. By the end of 2016 more than 80 UK companies (for example IKEA, Sainsbury`s and Tesco) got together and wrote an open letter to the government stressing their commitment for the SDGs and to underline that the government must create a framework to help businesses play their part.

Companies as for example Patagonia strongly invest in fair trade to achieve the SDGs. It has found the value to invest in it`s employees, going so far to offer free daycare for growing families in its Indian factories. The company also cut harmful chemicals in its clothing production. Cities like Birmingham in the UK invest strongly in initatives serving the SDG`s such as pushing public transport to minimize air pollution.

Switzerland also plays ist part on the road to turning the SDGs into reality and presented sub-ordinate targets in New York this past June as one of the first countries. It additionally coordinated a group of seven countries which succeeded to convince other governments to enable a control mechanism.*

Success is lead by the transparent communication towards the public

A crucial point on the road to a successful implementation if the SDGs is the international discussion and inter-governmental coordination. Here it is essential that countries regularly communicate domestically about the Agenda 2030 and the connected goals. Because most part of the Swiss public as well as most national aligned social-, economical-, environment- and education institutions are not informed about it. Therefore it is one of the first tasks of the federal council to inform the Swiss public and inside the adiministration at every chance about Agenda 2030 and its importance for Switzerland. Only with a broad information campaign aimed to clarify the public about the SDGs can be anchored in the broad society and on a communal, cantonal and federal level.

Starting point of sustainability: communication with all stakeholder groups

One is fast tempted to say that sustainability is easy for large companies with enormous budgets. But it is just as much paying off for small and mid-sized companies as well. Consumers increasingly question the products they buy and the service providers they use. An honest and transparent communication is the starting point to sustainable action both inside and outside of the company. The manner of the implementation has to take place in the correct context and it has to fit the company and its purpose. As seen with Gamma Catering AG. The mid-sized company is the first Swiss caterer being labelled «Sustainable Company» and shows how sustainability can be successfully implemented in small- and mid-sized enterprises.


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