Giving Thoughts


The SDGs: A Framework for Business and Nonprofit Collaboration

By Alice KorngoldSDGs

Companies and nonprofits are beginning to line up along the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs, established by the United Nations in the fall of 2015, build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The SDG framework is both aspirational and practical for each company and nonprofit to apply their superpowers in finding innovative solutions to the world’s most daunting challenges—social, economic, and environmental. Even better, companies and nonprofits can lay claim to the SDGs they will address, so that organizations can explore collaboration accordingly.

As shown through my research for A Better World, Inc.: How Companies Profit by Solving Global Problems…Where Governments Cannot, the businesses that will succeed in growing long-term shareholder value do three things well:

  • They understand the opportunities for global problem-solving at the board level;
  • They engage effectively with stakeholders; and
  • They thrive by partnering with nonprofits with complementary capabilities.

Partnerships will drive innovative global problem-solving

Only companies have the global footprint, vast resources, and market incentives to find innovative solutions for worldwide challenges. At the same time, businesses value nonprofits for their expertise, focus on mission, credibility, and relationships with remote and marginalized communities to which companies seek access. For their part, nonprofits recognize the benefits of collaborating with companies to advance their missions.

This blog is filled with posts by and about companies and nonprofits that share ways in which they are working together to build a better world. From addressing climate change (SDG 13), to promoting education for girls worldwide (SDGs 4, 5, and 6), providing clean water and sanitation (SDG 6) through partnerships (SDG 17), addressing multiple challenges (SDGs 1, 2, 5, and 10) through partnership (SDG 17), and focusing on gender equality (SDG 5), more and more companies and nonprofits are leveraging their unique capabilities to find and implement solutions together.

Make it easier for potential partners to identify you via the SDGs

The SDGs are all interconnected. Providing girls with access to a quality education promotes gender equality (5), reduces hunger (2) and poverty (1), and climate action (13) advances sustainable cities and communities (11).

Through this framework, the UN has made it infinitely easier for companies and nonprofits to align and report on their mutual efforts according. Increasingly, companies as well as nonprofits are posting the SDGs they address on their websites and in their annual reports. Unilever makes it crystal clear what and how they are addressing particular SDGs. So does Dow Chemical. Public Services International showcases the SDGs directly on its home page. Some companies and nonprofits will narrow their focus on fewer SDGs. In any case, it’s crucial to stake out your organization’s SDGs to make it easy for partners to find each other.

Help your employees to engage as volunteers to address the SDGs

By using the UN framework, companies and their employees can identify the issues they seek to address and the nonprofits that provide the best opportunities. In particular, IMPACT 2030, a private sector-led nonprofit, in collaboration with the UN, civil society, academia and other stakeholders, is leveraging human capital investments through employee volunteer programs globally to advance the achievement of the SDGs.

Report on your organization’s progress

Laying claim to SDGs is not sufficient. Organizations must set and share clear benchmarks and demonstrate progress. Stakeholders will only take you seriously if you demonstrate your accountability and transparency with accurate and understandable reports.

Businesses and nonprofits often face challenges in communicating to find common ground. The SDGs provide a shared language for the two sectors to come together for mutual benefit and the betterment of society and the world.

About the author

Alice Korngold

Alice Korngold
A Better World, Inc.: How Companies Profit by Solving Global Problems…Where Governments Cannot

Alice Korngold is co-editor of Giving Thoughts and the author of A Better World, Inc.: How Companies Profit by Solving Global Problems…Where Governments Cannot (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) and Leveraging Good Will: Strengthening Nonprofits by Engaging Businesses (Jossey Bass, A Wiley Imprint, 2005). For over 20 years, she has been training and placing business executives on NGO/nonprofit boards and consulting to corporations, foundations, and NGOs/nonprofits on board governance, CSR, and sustainability. Twitter: @alicekorngold

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