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Ireland’s business community needs more support to deliver on sustainability goals
The Government needs to take more action to engage with the business sector regarding the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to a new report by Concern Worldwide following a major consultation with businesses across Ireland.
As part of the project Concern Worldwide, supported by Irish Aid, engaged with the Irish business community to drive action on the SDGs. Through eight workshops, it consulted with 130 participants from 60 companies or organisations, spanning 20 sectors.
Ireland’s business community has a huge role to play, in helping the country achieve the SDGs, driving positive change both within and beyond the workplace.
Overall business leaders recognised the importance of progressing the SDGs, but acknowledged that sustainability action often falls down the priority list in times of crisis. They said demand from shareholders and employees were key drivers of action, but felt that stronger government policy was needed to both incentivise action and penalise inaction to level the playing field for businesses. Sustainability must become core to business strategy and not an add-on.
“This engagement with business leaders provides a better understanding of the private sectors ambitions and challenges in addressing the goals,” Concern Chief Executive David Regan said. “The reports offers insight into the supports and policy changes that would help business play their part in meeting Ireland’s Sustainable Development Goals. While the whole world benefits in reaching these goals it is important to remember that those most vulnerable benefit most.”
“What is clear is that while there is an appetite for change, much needs to be done, both within the private sector and at government level to create viable, sustainable pathways for businesses,” Mr Regan said.
Failure globally to deliver on the SDGs is contributing to the needs that Concern is responding to around the world. “Concern provides relief and assistance to the most vulnerable in the world; those least able to respond to the damage our environmental and social behaviours currently wreak,” Mr Regan noted. “We witness the desperation of the very poor farmers in the Sahel where rains are continually failing and those at the foot of the Himalayas whose lands are being lost through floods and sea levels rising.”
The report’s key recommendations are:
- The Government should deepen awareness of the SDGs within the business community, particularly within among small and medium enterprises, which need information and support.
- New perspectives should be brought to the SDG National Stakeholder Forums, ensuring representation of those working specifically in sustainability roles and entrepreneurs who have put sustainability at the heart of their business. The forums must go beyond broad dialogue to focused action, setting targets and developing roadmaps for industry sectors.
- Business representative bodies must drive ambition, commitment and accountability. The Government should seek updates on their actions to progress the SDGs and challenge them to show that their policies, and policies they lobby for, align with the SDGs.
- Sectoral toolkits and frameworks for action must be developed. The Government should work with the private sector to develop targets that are sufficiently ambitious and address the sustainability of core business operations.
- The Government must help business leaders understand the global impacts of the SDGs by providing opportunities for them to gain insights into climate impacts and sustainability challenges through partnerships with international non-government organisations and Irish Aid-funded projects.
“Without partnership there is no chance of the SDGs being delivered because no one sector can deliver these goals alone,” Concern’s Head of Active Citizenship Michael Doorly said.
“Governments must provide the leadership and commitment. Individuals, communities, civil society organisations and NGOs lack the means. Businesses and corporations, despite power, wealth and influence, still need enabling policy and regulatory environments. But together, all three -- the government, businesses and civil society -- are the only way the SDGs will be achieved.”
Although Ireland was instrumental in the development of the goals, the first Voluntary National Review of their implementation in 2018 showed that Ireland was lagging behind in many areas, ahead of the 2030 deadline. The next Voluntary National Review for the UN is due next month.
For media queries contact Eamon Timmins, Media Relations Manager, Concern Worldwide, at Eamon.firstname.lastname@example.org or 087 9880524.
NOTES TO THE EDITOR
A summary of the “Global Goals Business Conversations” report can be read here
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