Helping community organisations engage with the Sustainable Development Goals

Back to Insights
Helping community organisations engage with the Sustainable Development Goals

Written by Amanda Nuttall | 21st October 2020

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was agreed by 193 Member States, including Australia, at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York in September 2015.

The 2030 Agenda calls for the meaningful and active participation of people and stakeholders to achieve the 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that set a path to 2030 to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice and protect the planet. The SDGs are our collective road map to contribute to solving the greatest social and environmental problems affecting our world and its people.

In July 2019, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that development must focus on empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality. “The evidence is clear,” he said. “Development is not sustainable if it is not fair and inclusive – and rising inequality hinders long-term growth.”

The SDGs create a unique opportunity for the community sector. Given the connections community organisations have with local communities and local realities, for-purpose organisations can, and should, play a critical role in SDG decision-making. This will demonstrate the vital role the sector plays in our democracy, ensuring accountability, transparency, and inclusivity to enable all voices to be heard. Driving action on SDGs that align with an organisation’s purpose or mission will enable community organisations to strengthen how they deliver on that purpose and be a critical partner in developing a more sustainable and resilient world.

Think Impact is committed to supporting actions and commitments to advance the 2030 Agenda. We believe that organisations, both for-purpose and for-profit, have a key role to play in supporting governments to achieve the targets of the SDGs. We have been actively engaged in supporting our clients to measure their contributions to the SDGs, as well as working towards measuring our own contribution.

In 2019, the Global Compact Network Australia engaged us to develop two guides to support Australian businesses, their leaders and employees, to better understand and take action to achieving the SDGs. Titled 'Every Australian's Business', the guides provide practical insights from Australian companies leading in their commitments and actions to sustainable business, demonstrating the power of the SDGs to unlock business opportunities and drive sustainable innovation that benefits people and the planet.

Whilst focused on business, the guides are equally useful tools to support community organisations to better engage with the SDGs. They can help community organisations:

  • to gain a better understanding of the SDGs, the benefits they provide, and the need for all organisations to play an active role in achieving them
  • access practical tools and examples to create, demonstrate, measure and communicate their commitment, leadership and actions to achieving the SDGs.
  • What: the Sustainable Development Goals give us a commonly agreed set of ‘important positive outcomes’ for people and planet.
  • Who: positive outcomes, and who is still in need of them (or are ‘underserved’)?
  • How much: how much of an effect occurs, for whom, how deeply, quickly and lastingly does it occur?
  • Contribution: how does the effect compare and contribute to what is likely to occur anyway?
  • Risk: are we effectively managing significant impact risks?

Another useful resource is the Impact Management Project (IMP), a multi-stakeholder initiative designed to discern appropriate conventions in impact expectations, communications, and management. One of its many areas of focus is to establish shared fundamentals for describing impact to give us the clarity and credibility to be effective through collaboration. The IMP has reached consensus that impact can be measured across five dimensions and has proposed a framework to enable better understanding of an enterprise’s contribution to the SDGs in a consistent and comparable way:

As social impact and sustainability practitioners, Think Impact’s work focuses on supporting our clients to manage for impact and tell their story. We are also committed to telling our own. We recently released our first ever Sustainability Report: Towards a new prosperity. As the title suggests, it provides disclosure on our progress towards delivering on our vision for a new prosperity where social and economic value are seen as truly interconnected and equal.

Taking on the challenge of our first sustainability report created both momentum and opportunity. We have learnt a great deal about our business, our people, our purpose, our theory of change and our stakeholders. We have used these insights to evolve our business strategy and our thinking about the contribution we make to creating positive change.

The work of the UN Global Compact, the IMP and other frameworks continue to guide us in identifying and measuring the ways in which we contribute to sustainable development. We are committed to continuing this work and always striving to improve and share how we manage for impact.

2020 has been an extraordinary and challenging year. We are not alone in our experience of social isolation, working remotely and fearing for the health and wellbeing of our community. But whilst we are weathering the storm, we’re also doing all we can as a business to support others to thrive. This is part of the story we hope to tell next year as we continue to move towards our mission of a new prosperity.

Video Thumbnail

In this video interview, Think Impact Director Amanda Nuttall reflects on why the business chose to publish our first sustainability report and the process that was involved in delivering on our annual commitment as a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact.

As practitioners of sustainability reporting Amanda highlights the rewards and challenges of 'walking the talk' and what it means to hold your business or organisation accountable through public disclosure and transparency.

More information:

For any questions about Think Impact’s Sustainability Report, the SDG Guides or related topics of sustainability reporting, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), materiality assessments or the UN Sustainable Development Goals please contact Amanda Nuttall

Amanda specialises in sustainability performance management and disclosure, Including best practice application of leading tools and frameworks such as the GRI Standards, the International Integrated Reporting Framework and the AccountAbility suite of standards and guidance.