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Mapping The Future

What SDGs?

05:01 AM May 13, 2019

I remember a quiz show where someone was asked: “What are the SDGs?” And the contestant had a look that was not only puzzled, but scared. Because maybe, he never heard about the SDGs and thought it was some disease coming like the Swine Flu or H1N1.

Many business people still are unaware that the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have already been replaced by the new goals—the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs.

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As an entrepreneur, we want our business, no matter the size, to address these goals for the Earth to be a better place to live in. And for the planet to be a cool place for the next generation.

Sustainable has been the buzzword of late and many people still have not connected their business missions to these SDGs. Maybe it’s time to review these SDGs and align our business goals with them.

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There are the 17 SDGs:

Goal 1: No Poverty

Goal 2: Zero Hunger

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being

Goal 4: Quality Education

Goal 5: Gender Equality

Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

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Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities

Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

Goal 13: Climate Action

Goal 14: Life Below Water

Goal 15: Life on Land

Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals

These are what we want to achieve by the year 2030. If all companies, businesses and organizations worked on even just one goal (though many work on a few goals at a time), then everyone would be living a better life in 10 years.

Our SME business—ECHOstore- www.echostore.ph—was established in 2008 when we were still talking about UN’s MDGs. When we designed our social mission of helping small producers (mostly women) find market access, we did not know we would later touch on SDG 5: Gender Equality. Then, because our business involved “farm to table” organic and natural food, we also touched on SDG 3: Good Health and Well Being, and SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. Now, we help sustainable seafood suppliers and are touching SDG 14: Life Below Water. And as we conduct trainings and partner with organizations like Quest for Love of ILove Foundation of Gina Lopez, Peace and Equity Foundation (www.pef.ph), yes even SMEs can think about which SDGs they are making a difference in.

The SDGs are a good guide for those who have been jaded by Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts of big companies, or disillusioned by one-time-big-time tree planting which is not sustained, one coastal cleanup “green washing” move, and more corporate efforts at looking good, but doing bad.

If one is to head a conglomerate, a big business organization or even a start-up, one must at least be aware of how the business will affect the SDGs. Or not touch any of the goals at all. The awareness of a good manager or leader of SDGs is paramount.

When we were campaigning about CSR, I remember Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala attending a small meeting in Bangkok on CSR initiatives and I was impressed by how a leader can influence his group on CSR because the initiative starts from the top. For a big guy to attend a small meeting, he got my vote as a real CSR believer.

Soon, business trends pointed to social enterprises and CSR moves becoming integrated into the very fiber of a business (if the CEO or leader believes in giving back, that is, and not just cause-oriented marketing) and companies were transformed into responsible money-making public companies. Responsible business became the mantra as big groups could not be called social enterprises.

But what do these trends point toward? Sustainability. That’s today’s buzzword. And so the UN in 2015 came up with SDGs to better guide people, business and society.

It is time to assess what your business, big or small, is doing to help get to 2030 in a sustainable fashion. Already we see movements in sales of electric cars, rechargeable agricultural equipment (using electric vs gasoline), even light bulbs are now LED, airconditioners are inverter models and so forth and so on.

But as leaders and managers, how are we moving the needle toward sustainability? Are we even aware of the UN SDGs?

A little reading will not hurt. It may even come as a surprise to some that they are actually moving toward the goals, even if they are completely unaware that they are doing so.

“It just seems like the right thing to do” you may tell yourself. But knowing what the goals are may also be a good guide for you as you lead your people into helping think of how a company—big or small—is helping make the world a better place.

This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or MAP. The author is a member of the MAP Inclusive Growth Committee and the President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc. Feedback at <[email protected]> and <[email protected] >. For previous articles, please visit

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