The top-6 world goals according to our employees

The United Nations has set seventeen Sustainable Development Goals to address the most important problems facing the world today. These range from ensuring equal opportunities for all to creating sustainable consumption and production patterns. It’s an ambitious list. For maximum impact, the international business community and governments around the world will have to embrace all of them. And that’s exactly what ABN AMRO plans to do. Bank staff were recently asked to help by prioritising the goals, and external stakeholders, too, can have their say soon.

Illustrating the urgency of the Sustainable Development Goals, the statement “there can be no plan B because there is no planet B” perhaps best sums up the plan which the UN has been working on since 1971, officially known as “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. Each of these seventeen goals tackles one major problem facing our world including poverty, inequality, climate change and fourteen others. As with any ambitious plan, success will depend on the commitment of governments and the business community. The goals will require between USD 5,000 and USD 7,000 billion in funding each year until 2030. Obviously, we’re not talking about new money or additional costs here (such sums being impossible to raise over such an extended period of time) – instead, it’s mainly about organising existing resources differently in order to meet the goals.

Taking action

In December of last year, ABN AMRO joined seventeen other Dutch financial institutions committed to upholding the Sustainable Development Goals. Together with De Nederlandsche Bank (the Dutch central bank) and the Dutch government, this group intends to mobilise funds to achieve these global targets.

Acceptance and commitment equal success

So how does a financial institution prioritise the seventeen goals? “Acceptance and commitment are the main criteria when it comes to prioritising these in a way that makes sense,” says Jan Raes, Sustainability Adviser with ABN AMRO. “After all, if staff, clients, investors and the general public all support them, it will be that much easier to make an impact.” Raes recently conducted an internal survey on the Sustainable Development Goals in which ABN AMRO staff were asked to identify the six goals which they felt were the most important. He then assessed the relationship of those goals with the bank’s activities, asking to what extent a particular goal coincides with how the bank currently operates.

Six Sustainable Development Goals

Here are the six Sustainable Development Goals which ABN AMRO staff say they consider to be the most important.

  1. Sustainable Development Goal no. 12 – Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
    Goal 12 is all about integrating sustainability at the core of our operational processes and financial reporting. Circular production, consumption and entrepreneurship offer an alternative to today’s throwaway culture. “Circular” means raw materials and products are given a second life.
  2. Sustainable Development Goal no. 8 – Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all.
    This goal is about achieving growth based on real economic activities, and the promotion of, and respect for, human potential. Guarantees in the areas of health, safety, working hours and remuneration ensure that economic growth will better benefit the broader population.
  3. Sustainable Development Goal no. 10 – Reduce inequalities.
    Achieving this goal means promoting equal opportunities. Companies which don’t discriminate have better access to human talent and to a larger market. The winners of tomorrow are aware of the importance of inclusion in the workplace and have established policies against discrimination with respect to clients and employees.
  4. Sustainable Development Goal no. 13 – Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
    Goal 13 aims to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The cost of neutralising the negative effects of climate change on humans are many times greater than those incurred by switching to renewable energy sources.
  5. Sustainable Development Goal no. 16 – Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies.
    This goal is about creating a just world and promoting the rule of law and strong institutions which fight for citizens’ rights. Combating corruption will strengthen institutions promoting peace, security and justice.
  6. Sustainable Development Goal no. 11 – Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
    The built environment offers the best opportunities for making our cities sustainable. The quality of urban life largely depends on the degree of innovation, renovation and transformation of the built environment. Reducing carbon emissions will also have a big impact on this goal.

The next step

Raes says focusing on certain goals requires input not just from staff, but also from others outside the organisation. “Now is the time that external stakeholders need to identify where the emphasis lies for them,” he says, “so we’ve decided to ask them to weigh in and take part in a poll we’re including in a special upcoming newsletter. We’ll be asking external stakeholders like clients and NGOs to tell us what they feel ABN AMRO’s focus should be. The aim is to formulate long-term policies for the Sustainable Development Goals, policies which reflect the bank and its role in the community. That means making choices, setting priorities and formulating clear-cut objectives. Obviously, we’ll be reporting on our progress along the way.”