How do we make sure the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are actually met by 2030? This is one of the many tough questions facing the SDG drafters as they survey the sometimes patchy progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The discussion on ‘means of implementation’ for the SDGs has highlighted the make-or-break role of businesses, large and small, in realising the global transition to sustainable development over the coming 15 years.
The MDGs have been criticised for underplaying the role of business, not just in achieving poverty alleviation targets but also in the deeper processes that can either reduce or lock in poverty. The success of the SDGs, which recognise the need for transformative change, is likely to rely on enhanced engagement of the private sector.
For this to happen, business priorities, risk management considerations and socio-environmental accounting processes need to be – as far as possible – in line with, and complementary to, the objectives of sustainable development. A first step in this direction is to ensure that businesses and policymakers are talking the same language and measuring the same things in the same ways.
The Measure What Matters project, in which SEI and IIED are partners, is conducting a series of studies to better align measures and indicators of success in sustainability between businesses and national and global policy scales. The first study, on water sustainability measurement, is now open for expert consultation, to gather feedback and ideas.