On 25th September, at its General Assembly in New York, the United Nations formally adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the global goals that will set the development agenda until 2030. The following day these goals formed the centre piece of a special concert in Central Park, the Global Citizen Festival, featuring performances from Beyoncé, Coldplay and Ed Sheeran; impassioned speeches from Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Obama and Hugh Jackman; appeals for support from everyone from Ban Ki Moon to Big Bird; pledges of money and resources from prime ministers and presidents; and commitments from business leaders.
Being in New York to witness this, it felt an odd mix in some ways. Pop stars and Hollywood A-listers alongside politicians, aid workers and corporates.
But in other ways it wasn’t. We do all share the same home and our needs are interlinked and interdependent like never before. Governments of wealthy nations have a vested interest in governments of developing countries being able to provide safety and hope to their citizens; otherwise what is now a refugee crisis will become the new normal. Businesses benefit from people moving out of poverty – the aim of many NGOs – and having more money to spend. Stars attaching themselves to substantive social and environmental issues helps make meaning of their celebrity status to themselves and their audiences. And environmental issues will affect all of us on the planet. Understanding and communicating these vested interests increases trust between the different types of organisation and makes effective partnership more likely.
Every country and every type of organisation represented on the stage in Central Park benefits from ending extreme poverty, fighting inequality and injustice, and combatting climate change, the three overarching aims of the SDGs. And the framework of the 17 individual SDGs offers a likelihood of practical co-operation between different countries and different types of organisation.
SDG 2, for example – To end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture – provides the blueprint for rich and poor governments, NGOs and food companies, citizens and agrochemical businesses to work together. The common goal gives each group something tangible on which to build partnerships, while acknowledging each other’s separate objectives. SDG 6 – To ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all – is the framework within which NGOs and governments, business and Matt Damon can work together in common purpose, without being distracted by their differences.
The end of September also marked, with a little less fanfare, salt’s accreditation as a B-Corp. We are among the first 62 companies announced at the launch of B-Corporation in the UK and are proud to be in such good company. B-Corp was founded in the US in 2006 and B-Corporations include Ben & Jerry’s, Etsy and Patagonia. As part of the accreditation process, each company has had to amend its articles of association to include not only running the business as a going commercial concern, but also to have a material positive impact on society and the environment.
This is our own small reflection of what we saw on stage in New York – a pointer to a future where commercial, social and environmental are publicly recognised as intrinsically connected and mutually dependent.