What are the SDGs and why are they important for business?

SDGs, sustainable development goals, COP21, sustainability, sustainable business


What are the SDGs?

In January 2016, the Sustainable Development Goals, better known as SDGs, came into force.

They are a global call to adopt measures that can end the great challenges facing the planet. The SDGs aim to end poverty and inequality, protect the environment, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. These are the challenges that will mark the global agenda in the near future.

The SDGs are represented by 17 Goals encompassing 169 targets with an achievement date of 2030.

The achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals would create a world that is fully sustainable, socially just, environmentally safe, economically prosperous, inclusive and predictable.


Why are SDGs important for business?

The SDGs recognise the role of the private sector as a driver of productivity, inclusive economic growth and job creation. Offering a convincing growth strategy for individual companies, business in general and for the economy around the world.

The achievement of these goals will create a strong cause for the private sector to align its activities through:

  • Stable, regulated and competitive markets
  • Transparent financial systems and well-governed institutions without corruption
  • Accessible raw materials and energy
  • Giving consumers more purchasing power
  • Better educated workforce

In addition, the SDGs are not only a viable model for long-term growth that encourages the value chain, at the same time, they represent future opportunities for business.

The report "Better Business, Better World", published by The Business Commission, shows how the achievement of the SDG’s would generate new market opportunities. The following conclusions were obtained from this report:

1.    The achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals can generate at least $ 12 trillion in market opportunities in the key economic examined sectors:

  • Food & Agriculture (2.3 trillion)
  • Cities (3.7 trillion)
  • Energy & Materials (4.3 trillion)
  • Health & Well-Being (1.8 trillion)

2.    380 million jobs can be generated by business opportunities linked to the SDG’s.

3.    More than a half of the business opportunities linked to the SDG’s are in developing countries.

4.    Just by reaching SDG 5 (gender equality), 28 billion dollars would be added to global GDP in 2025.

5.    82% of the CEO’s considers that there should be a framework for comparing sustainability reports among companies.

6.    60 business opportunities linked to the achievement of the SDGs have been identified in 4 key sectors, which represents 60% of the world economy and will allow the estimated growth of 12 trillion dollars.

The following details the different business opportunities linked to the achievement of the SDGs in the four key sectors mentioned above: Food & Agriculture, Cities, Energy & Materials and Health & Well-Being.

After identifying these market opportunities, The Business Commission makes a series of recommendations for business leaders:

  • Incorporate the SDGs into the business strategy.
  • Generate support to consider the SDGs the correct growth strategy in their companies and in the business community in general.
  • Promote a financial system oriented towards long-term sustainable investment.
  • Recover the trust of society working together with governments, consumers, collaborators and society in general to achieve the different SDGs.
  • Promote the transformation to sustainable markets together with counterparts in the sector.
  • Work with political actors to consider the real cost of natural and human resources.


The SDGs represent an important framework for the private sector to understand, internalise and contribute to solving the greatest challenges that affect humanity and the future of the planet. A range of opportunities for companies is inaugurated.  

For this purpose, the Sustainable Goals must be integrated into the corporate strategy. The SDG’s should not be a new way of ordering the objectives and initiatives that the company had previously defined, but should serve to reflect on the corporate mission and the business model. This in turn may lead to defining new lines of business action with which to contribute to the prosperity of the entity and the planet.

The business argument in favour of sustainable development is already solid: it generates new opportunities and large increases in efficiency, promotes innovation and improves reputation. With a reputation for sustainability, companies attract and retain employees, consumers, customers and investors of other companies, and guarantee their ability to operate.


Empar Barreira



Better Business, Better World. Published by The Business Commission, 2017

El sector privado ante los ODS. Guía práctica para la acción. Published by Red Española del Pacto Mundial de Naciones Unidas, 2017.

SDG Compass. The guide for business action on the SDGs. Published by Global Compact, GRI and WBCSD.

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