14 March 2023

How does your company support the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

Is your company able to clearly demonstrate to its employees and stakeholders just how it contributes to the achievement of the SDGs? And how do you align your CSR/social value strategy with the goals?

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What are the SDGs?

Most of us have heard of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and few would disagree with their ambition. But how relevant and achievable are they for companies that do not have a global footprint or an international supply chain?

In September 2015, the Member States of the United Nations adopted a plan for achieving a better future for all —a plan to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and protect our planet. At the heart of “Agenda 2030” are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and all global stakeholders, including business, are invited to collaborate to address these challenges.

The UN Global Compact describes itself as the ‘world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative’ and over 12,000 companies worldwide have signed up to its 10 core principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, as well as committing to implement the SDGs.

And how are the SDGs relevant to your business?

Many companies struggle to link the ambitious global SDGs to their own local CSR/social value initiatives, to demonstrate real impact and to make the goals meaningful and relevant to their employees and other stakeholders. Each of the 17 goals has a number of more specific targets, and these are often more relevant to medium-sized and national businesses. They can be linked to social value/CSR objectives and supported by very practical projects in local communities.

For example, our online reading programme supports SDG4, Quality Education, by providing additional weekly reading practice for struggling young readers in areas of deprivation across the UK. Sub-target, SDG4.1, is ‘to ensure free primary and secondary education for all children’. In the UK that is a given, but we still have work to do on SDG 4.6, which aims ‘to ensure by 2030 that all young people and a substantial proportion of adults achieve literacy and numeracy’. In the UK, over 7 million adults struggle with literacy (NLT) and 38% of children from disadvantaged backgrounds are unable to read adequately at the age of 11 (DfE).

Quality Education also underpins many of the other SDGs including No Poverty, Decent Work and Economic Growth and Reduced Inequalities. Because without education, it is very hard to have a decent income, to feed your family, to contribute to the economy and be socially mobile.

Many of our corporate partners have signed up to the UN Global Compact and have placed one or more of the SDGs at the heart of their corporate responsibility or ESG strategy. We provide a volunteering opportunity for their employees which links straight back to SDG4 and has a measurable impact on the children taking part in regions of deprivation.

Chapter One provides a volunteering opportunity for our partners' employees which links straight back to SDG4 and has a measurable impact on the children taking part in regions of deprivation.

Case studies

Vanquis Banking Group has been a corporate partner of Chapter One since 2020. It is a specialist bank that aims to support the 1 in 5 people in the UK who can’t get access to credit products through mainstream banks and building societies.

As a signatory of the UN Global Compact, Vanquis is committed to addressing five priority SDGs: including SDG 4, Quality Education. On their website they give examples of how they involve their employees to support each of their priority goals and link these back to their core purpose of supporting underserved communities.

Vanquis sponsors teams of volunteers to read online weekly with struggling readers in disadvantaged communities in Bradford and London. This gives their employees the opportunity to support SDG 4 directly through their volunteering and to see the difference they are making to these children.

It’s my second term of volunteering and it’s so rewarding observing the child you support grow and develop. It’s such a great programme and provides the children with that extra bit of help they need to move to their next level of reading.

Debbie Peel, PFG Chapter One online reading volunteer

Daisy Group is one of the largest providers of communications and IT solutions across the UK. They joined us as a corporate partner in 2022 and are supporting 20 employee volunteers to read with struggling readers in disadvantaged communities in East Sussex and Peterborough.

They believe that the IT industry has a substantial global impact that relates to all the SDGs and that helping to achieve these goals will only be achieved in partnership with others (the 17th SDG). They summarise their actions and impact against each of the 17 goals on their website.

Our colleagues have found volunteering with Chapter One to be truly rewarding. Promoting lifelong learning (UN-SDG 4) through IT means we get to use our skills to create positive social impact.

Sebastian Carney, Head of Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) and Sustainability, Daisy Group

Working in Partnership

No one government, business or organisation is going to be able to address all 17 goals, but we can all do our bit locally, nationally or internationally. Let’s not forget Goal 17 which aims to ‘Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development’.

If you want to discuss how your company can partner with Chapter One to support the SDGs, do get in touch with our Business Development Manager, Sarah Taylor at sarah.taylor@chapterone.org.