Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Business Responsibility & Opportunity

 What are SDGs?

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a shared action plan for peace and prosperity, for people and the planet, now and into the future. More and more often, articles on LinkedIn are headlined with references to ‘the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit’, ‘the circular economy’, ‘sustainability’ and so on. It is important to note that all of these concepts, and their associated beliefs, are deeply rooted in the Agenda for Sustainable Development and its accompanying SDGs.


The agenda was adopted by all UN Member States in 2015. At its heart are 17 SDGs which are an urgent call for countries, companies and citizens to come together and work in a global, collaborative partnership for the survival and betterment of our people and planet.

COVID-19 has highlighted the fragility of humanity. Climate change will have far more reaching effects than COVID-19, it’s just moving at a slower, less forceful pace. SDG 13, ‘Climate Action’, will be the SDG I will use as a reference example throughout this blog.


How & Why Should My Business Make an SDG Pledge?

Each SDG has responsibilities and actions that can be aligned to your business objectives. These performance targets are actionable indicators that companies can use to build into their business goals. SDGs can be used in business plans for economic recovery post COVID-19. Companies must future proof themselves and integrate sustainable operations; SDGs provide a roadmap to achieving this necessary move to sustainability. At a country level, a reduction in greenhouse gases would be a target in line with SDG 13. However, at a business level, a move towards the circular economy or renewable energy sources would be an example.


You must conduct a material assessment of your own business. Who are you and what do you do? A company with large manufacturing sites may deem switching to renewable energy more impactful than a professional service provider with one small office. Look at your operations to find the impact relevant to your business. The SDG actions will help you on this journey, while also providing ideas for business opportunity., a Limerick based company, saw a gap in the market for sustainable PPE equipment and filled this niche with the world’s first plastic free PPE offering. They distinguished themselves in the market, seized an opportunity for competitive advantage, while still achieving SDG actions. Find what is advantageous for your business and align you chosen SDG to this. Be realistic. SMEs could have huge impacts if they adopted one action alone from SDG goal 13.


Case Example: SSE Airtricity & SDG 13 ‘Climate Action’

SSE Airtricity is Ireland’s leading renewable energy provider. Their company goal is to be the leading company and driving force to a net zero carbon world (a highly energy efficient world fully powered by renewable energy). The company has onshore and offshore wind farms to produce renewable energy and they provide electric charge points. When adopting SDG 13, SSE looked at what was most pertinent, relevant and achievable to their business, revised their business plan, and aligned it to the ‘Climate Action’ goal. SSE then formulated their actionable, measurable business goals, aligned with SDG 13, to be achieved by 2030:


  1. Cut electricity generated by carbon by 60%
  2. Treble renewable energy output
  3. Help accommodate 10 million electric vehicles

To set their intent and commitment to the goals, SSE linked performance of the goals to executive performance and remuneration, driving action.

The benefits of this SDG are already having a knock-on effect. The drive towards a low carbon economy has resulted in 80 new job opportunities at an Irish wind farm. Partnership opportunities were also availed of with Microsoft. Both companies initiated an innovative low-carbon community engagement project with Collinstown Park Community College in Clondalkin, Dublin. The project is helping the school’s energy efficiency capabilities, which included full LED lighting across campus with the installation of full roof solar panels and batteries. In addition to cost savings, data collection opportunities allowed the school to monitor their energy usage, bridging an educational programme for Transition Year students. This in turn further built awareness on the benefits and importance of sustainability. A similar project with the Laura Lynn Foundation, led to a reduction of over €10,000 per year on their energy bill through educating and empowering the foundation to monitor its energy usage.


The altruistic benefits of an SDG pledge are evident with SSE Airtricity. Yet, as seen in the example, SDGs can help spark the flame of business innovation providing competitive advantage.


What SDG will your business sign up for?


  1. Look at what was is important, relevant and achievable to your business. This is where you can make an impact and achieve buy-in from your employees.
  2. Remember, SDGs are local as well as global. Projects that help your local community are just as vital as large international projects in achieving the goals.
  3. Align your business plan/objectives to your chosen SDG.
  4. Use the SDG indicators/actions to help you achieve your objectives.
  5. Be realistic. We all want to make the world a better place, but let’s do it one step at a time.


A Brief SDG Overview with Key Actions/Indicators:

(Please find more detail here)

1.No Poverty; Eradicating poverty, in all its forms, is the greatest global challenge. Extreme poverty must be eradicated for all people, currently measured as living on less than $1.25 a day.


2.Zero Hunger

Hunger and undernutrition are on the rise, affecting approximately 1 in 9 people in globally in 2017. A study in 2018 found that figures were similar in Ireland with 1 in 9 children going to bed hungry. Hunger must be ended, with access to adequate, nutritious food ensured to all people, in particular the poor, the vulnerable and infants.


3. Good Health and Wellbeing


Progress has stalled in addressing major diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, with over half the global population not having access to essential health services; treatable disease epidemics in the developing world must end. Women’s death rates during pregnancy and childbirth, in low and middle-income countries, must be addressed (303,000 died in 2015).

4. Quality Education


262 million children aged 6 to 17 were not attending school in 2017. All boys and girls must have access to free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education. Technological advances provide opportunities.

5. Gender Equality


All forms of discrimination against women and girls must be ended, with the elimination of harmful practices such as child/forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Women must be empowered worldwide.

6. Clean Water and Sanitation


785 million people lacked basic drinking water services in 2017. Universal access to safe and affordable drinking water must be ensured globally.

7. Affordable and Clean Energy


840 million people worldwide have no access to electricity, with access to clean cooking fuels problematic. Universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services must be provided. In Ireland, a 2017 study found an estimated 400,000 households lived in fuel poverty, affecting the most vulnerable in our communities.

8. Decent Work and Economic Growth


More progress is needed to increase employment opportunities, particularly for young people; reduce informal employment and the gender pay gap and promote safe and secure working environments to create decent work for all.

9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure


Quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and transborder infrastructure, would support economic development and human well-being in developing countries. This, in turn, could attract industry and spur industrial development.

10. Reduced Inequalities


Empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status.

11. Sustainable Cities and Communities


Action is needed to reduce urban residents breathing poor-quality air and having limited access to transport and open public spaces.

12. Responsible Consumption and Production


The over-extraction of resources and the degradation of environmental resources must cease, with policies introduced that improve resource efficiency, reduce waste and mainstream sustainability practices across all sectors of the economy.

13. Climate Action


Climate change measures must be integrated into policies, strategies and planning. Education and awareness on climate change impact reduction and risk planning must be encouraged

14. Life Below Water


The adverse effects of overfishing, growing ocean acidification due to climate change and worsening coastal pollution must be addressed. Marine pollution, in particular from land based activities, must be reduced.

15. Life on Land


Land degradation and biodiversity loss is occurring at an alarming rate. Replanting of forests must be encouraged with the halting of deforestation. Poaching, animal trafficking and invasive (non-native) species spreading must be prevented to ensure animal conservation.

16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


All forms of violence and related death rates everywhere must be reduced, with the abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against children ended.

The illicit financial and arms flows of organised crime must be prevented.

17. Partnership for the Goals


Strengthen the means of achieving these goals through fair and transparent taxation systems and spending of public funds. Empower developing countries by offering fair loan schemes and repayment systems.


A future blog will explore the SDGs that IDDEA have committed to. If your business needs help in aligning strategic processes to any of the 17 SDGs, our sustainability expert Rebecca Byrne, can help you on this journey. Find out more at our company website.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”


Written By; Marie Muckley

Promoting Sustainable and Innovative Procurement Culture: Business Opportunities for Public Partnerships

What is Innovation Procurement?

Innovation procurement can deliver solutions to challenges of public interest, presenting businesses with opportunities through innovative product response. IDDEA procurement expert, Mary Ryan, provides an overview of the Innovation Procurement Brokers Project, offering valuable first-hand insight.


Through her involvement in Procurement Transformation Institute (PTI), Mary has had the pleasure of collaborating on the Innovation Procurement Brokers Project. The project aims to facilitate the procurement of goods and services by strengthening links between public buyers on the demand side, and innovative businesses on the supply side. Public buyers are assisted with identifying their needs and are connected with businesses able to develop innovative solutions providing for their requirements. The project provides increased opportunities for businesses, with guidance provided on public authority needs to bid for tenders.


The project is EU funded, where five regional schemes are being piloted in Ireland, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Ireland and Andalusia (Spain). The project will finally operate at European level, facilitating the connection of public buyers and suppliers of innovation.


Mary explains that “working with such a diverse group of professionals was very rewarding. All participants brought expertise and experience from their own organisations and countries. PTI is a relatively new organisation in Ireland, and through our collaboration in European projects (Innovation Procurement Brokers, Procure 2 Innovate) we can learn so much from our European counterparts.”


Innovation Culture and Sustainability: Sourcing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Mary highlights that encouraging an innovation culture is crucial. “It is important for public buyers to look beyond existing frameworks to fit for purpose, innovative goods, that can offer benefits and improvements on what is currently available. Buyers involved in the Innovation Procurement Brokers project, are searching for an innovative solution as a replacement for an existing or new need. In Ireland, a need was identified for sustainable PPE workwear. This encouraged suppliers to think about innovation and provide sustainable solutions.


She continues to explain that, while there are many drivers for innovation, sustainability has become a topic of huge interest. “While interest is building in more sustainable products, buyers in the market have not yet driven the need for suppliers to provide more sustainable product solutions. In the private sector, distributors and agents are beginning to look for innovative products from manufacturers to better match sustainability requests from their end users.”


In many cases, an alternative solution for PPE products is already available on European markets. Sustainable clothing and equipment are something relatively new, and alternative solutions are being developed and evolving as the demand from the public and private sector is increasing. There are many examples of such innovation procurement solutions. For example, Denmark is looking at sustainable clothing for hospitals and public procurers in Belgium have written a guide for public purchasers to help them to source socially responsible work wear. As momentum grows in the area of circular and sustainable economies, the opportunities for manufacturers and suppliers to supply innovative solutions are growing.


Sourcing Sustainable PPE Suppliers

PTI undertook a number of research techniques to determine the best approach to source suppliers for the need identified by Irish buyers of PPE equipment. Mary explains that “we firstly held workshops to establish what the need and requirements were. I then conducted desk research on suppliers of PPE workwear in Ireland and attended supplier trade events.”


Mary outlines how the PTI researched recyclable options which can be applied to PPE at the end of its lifecycle. “Participants in the Innovation Procurement Brokers Project are keen to see improved product sustainability and performance. Through their search for a more sustainable solution, the public authority buyers hope to source products that will reduce carbon footprints in logistics and manufacturing. Furthermore, establishing a system which facilitates repair and recycling of products at the end of life and work towards a more sustainable solution. These measures will help to reduce waste and dependence on unsustainable resources.”

She explains that one challenge encountered was that the level of contamination at the end of life of some PPE products may not allow for them to be recycled, “however buyers are keen to understand all of the information available from the market and learn from the proposed solutions.” Mary details how she has encountered industries in the private sector who have shown great interest in recyclable PPE products.

Mary tells us that “the whole area of sustainability and circularity is a fascinating one. I developed a great understanding of these concepts and the challenges manufacturers face when developing a sustainable yet disposable product. My colleague in IDDEA, Rebecca Byrne, is an specialist in this area and her expertise was invaluable when facilitating workshop for public buyers.”

Key Takeaways

  1. Innovation procurement brokerage can provide increased opportunities for businesses to bid for tenders where they have solutions to public needs.
  2. Public authorities benefit from being connected with potential providers in the market and have access to new product innovations.
  3. By offering sustainable solutions to public problems, all stakeholders, including the environment, can experience value and success.


How to Learn More?

The Catalogue of Best Practices was published by the Innovation Procurement Brokers. This shows different approaches taken by partners and what was successful for them; very valuable learning for other buyers.

PTI promotes innovative solutions and is working to increase knowledge and skills in Innovation Procurement. PTI aims to improve competitiveness and the innovative mindset of Irish organisations in Europe. Please find more information here.

World Environment Day – 5th June

Today is #WorldEnvironmentDay.  This is a day where across the globe we come together to educate, celebrate  and try to help our ailing planet and each other.  This year has a significant new and urgent narrative as we all try to adapt to Covid 19 and our future beyond it.

Ireland is still in lockdown, and since early March I have not been out of my home village more than twice.  We are a resilient people with a strong sense of community, but like many others my neighbours and I have felt the walls closing in at times.  In the last few weeks I have noticed a positive change -not just in Ireland but across the globe.  The impatient demand to get back to “normal” has faded out and the strongest voices now are calling for a fairer, greener, more sustainable reboot of what we used to have.  We can rebuild a better future out of our current situation, but how do we harness this potential?

Cultural change is one of the hardest things to achieve and we can only start that journey by asking some very hard and complex questions.  Tim O’Reilly has written a truly inspirational blog post asking some of these questions.  At times it is uncomfortable reading, as he asks us to confront deeply held beliefs and concepts not only of the future, but also our past and I highly recommend you to read it not once, but several times.  Each time I go back to the post there is something new or another nuance I missed in the last reading.

I wanted to write a blog today about how to unpack the complexity of “sustainability” and how to begin and move forward on the journey as we’ve helped so many organizations do over the last few years.

I couldn’t. I can quote you facts and figures, best practice and scientific studies about sustainability and climate change. It is a major part of my job and my life and I am proud of it. I couldn’t write that blog because today is different.

Today we join across the globe in the face of huge uncertainty.  Today is the day maybe we can stop for a moment, breathe and see the green new shoots of a future. Today is the day where we need to reflect and ask hard questions of ourselves and honestly answer those questions back.  From there, we take action.


Written by; Rebecca Byrne.