A Decade to Deliver : The Implementation Progress of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in the Private Sector
Sammanfattning: As a response to the ‘Grand Challenges’ of the 21st century such as climate change and social inequalities, the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), released by the United Nations in 2015, became a matter of urgency. The SDGs are a continuation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aiming to cover an even broader scope of social, environmental and economic challenges. To ensure that the 2030 Agenda, represented by 17 goals and 169 underlying targets, becomes a positive force for all available resources have to act in concert. Governments, NGOs, civil society and the private sector bear the responsibility to guide the way of transformation towards a more sustainable future. However, the most significant shift regarding the development of the SDGs has been the central role of the private sector that is considered to be a key player towards the accomplishment of the 2030 Agenda. In order examine the role and contribution of the private sector, the thesis aims to contribute to previous research within a five-step investigation: (1) analysis of which business opportunities or challenges emerge out of active involvement with the SDGs, (2) how partnerships or collaborations can contribute to a more effective implementation process, (3) whether goal prioritization is of relevance to advance the progress of SDG implementation, (4) how the SDG progress can be measured, reported and communicated and lastly (5) how effectively (Swedish) companies have currently managed to implement the Global Goals into their business operations. Based on the review of the literature and the identified research gaps, the following research question has been formulated to gain in-depth knowledge and investigate the phenomenon of the overall research purpose: RQ: How do companies in the private sector implement the SDGs into their business operations and what are the determinants that drive the progress of the implementation? This study has been conducted through a qualitative research approach consisting of interviews with private sector representatives, governmental and non-governmental organizations. The framework for this study is based on three elements of theory: (1) Stakeholder Theory by Edward Freeman (1984), outlining how sustainable development can be approached with a stakeholder mindset, (2) the Triple-Bottom-Line approach by Elkington (1997) characterized by efforts to localize universal concepts of sustainability and (3) Sustainable Business Model Innovation represented by the Flourishing Business Model Canvas (Upward 2013, 2016) and the Triple Layered Business Model Canvas (Joyce and Paquin, 2016) supporting individuals and organizations seeking competitive sustainability-oriented change. The main conclusion of this research includes the requirement of a shift of how the Global Goals are approached by the private sector. SDG implementation or sustainable actions in general are not to be seen as an add on but need to be actively integrated into core business operations. However, to initiate fruitful change the expected role of the private sector needs to be clearly communicated. Identified actions to drive the progress of SDG implementation range from increased partnership engagement, the prioritization of goals up to the measurement and reporting on sustainable efforts taken. Finally, Credible Sustainability Standards turned out to be the most promising solution to eradicate many of the by our participants identified shortcomings of the Global Goals.
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