Sustainable development and SDAs, an alternative for the recovery of SMEs?

| October 8, 2020 | Articles

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As part of the strategies that international organizations have promoted to embark on the road to recovery, there is an interesting alternative that small and medium enterprises could adopt based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDAs).

According to the United Nations Global Compact, SDAs are positioned for SMEs as one of the most profitable and secure long-term investments. In fact, working on this model could allow the business sector, especially small businesses, to emerge stronger from this crisis, providing them with greater resilience and capacity to adapt. In a practical way, the Global Compact Spanish Network designed a guide for the sustainable recovery of SMEs, which highlights some of the following proposals:

  • Adapt to the new situation This is a major challenge for these companies, which in most cases must adapt their facilities and the work of their employees to the security measures established to prevent contagion.
  • Potentiate digitalization The correct use of new technologies and digitalization can help companies to potentiate sustainable development, reducing the movement of employees, promoting flexibility and labor conciliation or promoting a more sustainable management of the supply chain.
  • Take advantage of new market trends The search for new business opportunities, the reinvention of the value chain or the implementation of circular economy processes are aspects that can lead SMEs to improve their capabilities during this crisis.

What are the SDAs?

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDAs) were adopted by all UN Member States in 2015 as a call to the world to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.

At this point, you may wonder if your company can apply SDAs in a pandemic recovery context. In that sense, countries that are ahead of the game in terms of economic impacts due to Covid-19 consider the role of SMEs in this sustainable recovery to be essential, as their flexibility and adaptability provide an opportunity to emerge stronger.

Through this business model, small and medium enterprises will not only access new markets and resources, but will also be able to face the recovery from this crisis in a more effective way, implementing measures of conciliation and flexibility within their workforce, promoting innovation or encouraging health and safety at work.

Renowned Latin American firms have been applying SDAs for years. From giants such as Bimbo or Cemex in Mexico; BanColombia or Itaú in Brazil; Farmacenter in Paraguay, or the Bolivian airline Amaszonas, with good results in very specific approaches to improving communities and better conditions for their workers, to mention the most relevant ones.

How to apply SDAs in SMEs and its benefits?

From the first five SDAs, it is possible to analyze a strategy focused on the business for the next few months and consolidate it as an operating plan for the long term:

  • Ending Poverty: Addressing the needs of the communities and regions where the company is present, especially in situations such as the current one. Some positive impacts can be improvements in the attraction of talent, increased demand for products and services, and greater motivation of staff.
  • Zero Hunger: Social action by SMEs through projects in soup kitchens or food donations will be of great help to many people who are being negatively affected by this crisis. This solidarity response will promote the positive values of the company, contributing to the strengthening of the SME in this situation. 
  • Health and wellness: The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of implementing health and safety systems, carrying out health checks on employees or monitoring health impacts throughout the value chain. These actions will help not only to control and prevent possible health crises, but also to combat stress, reduce the absenteeism rate and improve the productivity of the staff.
  • Quality education: Training the staff in aspects such as health and safety, sustainable development or human rights will allow employees to be better prepared for all kinds of situations. Training in these areas will be useful for small and medium sized companies in order to focus the recovery towards a more sustainable and resilient business model for future crises.
  • Gender Equality: Women are being more affected by the pandemic from the social and labor point of view, therefore, it is relevant to implement within the SME mechanisms to promote gender equality in the workforce and detect situations of discrimination. In this way, female leadership will be promoted and equality between men and women will be ensured. 

In summary, implementing Sustainable Development Goals has many benefits both inside and outside the companies, regardless of their size. Within the company, surely most of the staff will feel identified with one or more of these goals, which will generate greater involvement and motivation in them. Outwardly, the trend of conscious consumption will reinforce the loyalty of your clients and attract new buyers who have changed their way of thinking and who are interested in supporting companies that generate positive social impact in their communities.

What will be your strategy to implement Sustainable Development Goals in your company?