The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Are Not Out of Reach
Prospects for achieving the SDGs by 2030 look dim. But innovation, technology, and creativity can turn the tide.
It will be impossible to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals without bringing the full power of the private sector to bear. Companies across industries and regions have been pushing to make their businesses more sustainable—essentially focusing on the “E” and the “S” in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) topics. And government policy—including new reporting requirements in Europe and the Inflation Reduction Act in the US—are creating even greater momentum.
Yet when it comes to private-sector actions that advance the SDGs, we are not moving nearly fast or far enough today. Companies must supercharge their efforts. This does not mean simply taking on more charitable endeavors. Rather, they need to target areas that enhance their competitive strengths, where they can make a meaningful difference.
Research, including by BCG, demonstrates that companies achieving meaningful progress on ESG factors earn higher valuation multiples and revenues and have a lower cost of capital. These findings reflect that sustainable businesses are often better positioned to seize new opportunities and mitigate risks than their rivals.
We see evidence of this across sectors and regions:
Companies have a major opportunity to be catalysts for the renewal of energy and effort around the SDGs. Many have already done the hard work of understanding where they can have impact—where they have the core strengths and capabilities to make a difference and where progress could create a material positive impact on their business performance.
For a food manufacturer, this may involve supporting smallholder farmers to earn a living wage, an action that can not only reduce poverty but also diversify the supply chain and make it more resilient. For an industrial company, meanwhile, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—including adopting renewable energy, driving energy efficiency, and embracing circularity to reduce raw material consumption—can cut costs significantly.
While companies may understand these opportunities, they must now accelerate their timelines for action. In many cases they cannot do this alone. Progress will depend on unprecedented levels of collaboration—with partners in their supply and value chains, with NGOs, and with governments.
Now is the time for companies to double down on action—both to strengthen competitive advantage and performance and to build a more sustainable and inclusive world.