The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have challenged both the public and private sector to amplify the outcomes of purpose-driven work. Part of this challenge involves aligning impact reporting – communicating the difference you have made – to the impact categories outlined in the SDGs.
Globally, social enterprises are the carriers and medium of impact because of the very nature of their work, the model of their organisation and their intent to create change. Sustainable Development Goals have been put forth by the United Nations to ensure socio-economic equality, sustainable livelihood and a better life for those who are oppressed.
To solve the world’s biggest problems, we need inter-disciplinary approach and inter-sector collaboration. SDG 17 explicitly states that we need partnerships to achieve all the SDGs. By their very nature, social entrepreneurs draw ideas from diverse fields and have a healthy disrespect for traditional and sector boundaries. Their willingness to question assumptions, to ask ‘why not?’ and transpose solutions from one realm to another, is worth emulating.
But, the fact of the matter is, for social enterprises to help the nation and eventually the world achieve sustainable development, it is necessary that they align themselves with SDGs.
What Does It Mean to Align Oneself With SDGs?
The first step here is to understand, assimilate and distribute the meaning of SDGs. Only if a social entrepreneur understands the importance of SDGs and eventually translates them into their organisation’s goals, will the impact be more pronounced and effective.
But, there is a problem…
The problem is, while SDGs are the most talked about topic today, the percentage of social enterprises in India that are aligned with SDGs is very less or negligible, to be precise. That’s not the real question. The real question is why?
To get answers to these questions I caught up with Suvankar Mishra, Executive Director of eKutir, India’s First Certified BCorp.
“How many people that are leading the companies today, understand the meaning of SDGs?
SDGs are goals that have targets. These targets are like checkpoints which you need to achieve to complete or realise the goal. If you fail to achieve a target, it spills over to the next one and so on.
Each of these targets have indicators which help you measure the result of your efforts of impact. Secondly, with these targets in place, the next question is what are the targets that YOUR organisation wants to set to achieve these globally accepted goals?
Only when these are in line, one can say that the particular social enterprise or impact organisation is in line with the SDGs.
From an organisational standpoint there is always an inherent battle between purposefulness and profitability. And achieving these two guarantees sustainability. While the meaning of SDG is known by many, the execution of the same is very limited.”
As rightly put by Suvankar, the tradeoff between profit and purposefulness has always been a spoiler when organisations decided to go the SDG way. Profits are necessary to sustain themselves while purposefulness essentially decides the very soul of an impact-driven organisation. Barring this, there are a handful of reasons why a very small percentage of social enterprises today are aligned with SDGs.
- SDG misalignment
- The stakeholder engagement is not multilateral
- The engagement between the purpose driven spectrum is disenfranchised which leads to half-baked knowledge and understanding
Impact Investors Can Play A Key Role
Concurrence and congruence is important.
We feel that Impact Investors will play a key role in getting social enterprises aligned to SDGs.
Concurrence will happen when an impact investor will get all the requisite information of a social enterprise in the impact sphere. He/she should understand what other social entrepreneurs are doing and what is needed to achieve SDGs. The perfect matchmaking of both these things is necessary for the impact investor to understand how they should use SDG 17 (making meaningful partnerships) to amplify the impact.
Why impact investor? Because an impact investor helps shape social enterprises who become the drivers of change tomorrow.
There is a huge amount of SDG finance available and an impact investor can use this SDG finance to support organisations working towards creating an impact and help them find the right congruence in their goals and SDGs.
The SDGs will not be easy to achieve and, in the case of some goals, will necessitate complete transformation of existing systems and practices. Despite this challenge, however, the goals also represent an immense economic opportunity. By developing a better understanding and aligning themselves with the SDGs, companies will be able to better manage their risks, anticipate consumers’ demand, secure access to needed resources, differentiate themselves from competitors, and strengthen their supply chains. In essence, the SDGs can help businesses to connect their strategies with global priorities while also playing their part in ensuring that no one is left behind.