More and more organisations are discovering that a sustainability policy and profitable growth really do go hand in hand. In order to shape their sustainability policies, they are increasingly turning to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals laid out by the United Nations. ISO standards are a handy tool that can be used to translate these goals into concrete plans of action.
What are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
At the end of 2015, the 193 UN member states approved an ambitious plan of action to replace the Millennium Development Goals. The objective: a world in which an even better balance is achieved between environmental, social and economic needs. These 17 Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs) in five fields seek to create a better world by 2030.
Why implement the SDGs?
- Government: human rights, water and energy efficiency, public health and other policy areas are interpreted based on sustainability. In addition, the SDGs encourage authorities to deliver on national and international commitments.
- Industry: from health and safety at work and energy consumption to a future-oriented and environmentally-friendly infrastructure, all industries benefit. Thanks to the SDGs, you can meet the social expectations of your stakeholders and boost your reputation.
- SMEs: companies are increasingly requiring their suppliers to operate sustainably, whereas consumers prefer to buy from sustainable companies and a sustainable image makes you more attractive on the labour market. SMEs that link their policies to the SDGs increase their clout considerably.
What is the link between SDGs and ISO standards?
Translating ambitions into concrete knowledge and plans of action is no easy undertaking. Because there are no practical guidelines, many organisations support the SDGs without having measurable goals. Sometimes this inevitably results in vague promises and greenwashing.
ISO standards provide a way out. Three examples:
1. Sustainable Development Goal 13: climate action
ISO standards play a major role in the climate agenda. They can help with climate observation, greenhouse gas calculations and with the determination of a smart ecological policy. For example, ISO series 14000 provides practical information on how an organisation can limit the ecological impact of its activities, from better waste management to lower energy consumption.
2. Sustainable Development Goal 7: affordable and renewable energy
Renewable energy and energy efficiency are the subjects of more than 200 ISO standards. The most well-known of these is ISO 50001: the yardstick for sustainable energy management systems.
The benefits of ISO 50001? ‘Het Facilitair Bedrijf’ successfully implemented the standard. Read their story in dutch or french.
3. Sustainable Development Goal 3: good health and well-being
ISO has developed more than 1,300 standards to support safe, high-quality medical care. These include international rules and regulations relating to sterilisation, medical devices, implants, data analysis and a lot more besides. For instance, ISO series 11137 stipulates how to sterilise medical devices using radiation while ISO 7153 defines the materials that can be used to produce surgical instruments.
Concrete plans to implement standards?
On our website, you will find an introductory film that immediately initiates you to the SDGs, along with a digital brochure proposing specific standards for each goal. We have also combined these standards in a catalogue that can be found in myNBN.
NBN can help you to put the SDGs into practice within your company or organisation. Take one of our training courses to gain insights into certain standards and/or join committees within the SDG framework and have your say.