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It has been two years since the United Nations established the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the international community to work toward through 2030. Since then, we’ve seen widespread uptake of the SDG agenda across the world as companies and organizations recognize that the long-term well-being of their businesses, stakeholders and communities can hinge on successful commitments to these goals.
My company has chosen to focus on #10 of these 17 goals: Reduced Inequalities. Why? Because I believe our key services – mobile connectivity and internet – are the great equalisers of our day. Widespread and affordable access to digital services is a game-changer for millions. Mobile banking, healthcare, farming and weather information, digital birth registration, online education platforms, access to such services provides countless avenues by which people can empower themselves and their societies. By raising standards in the ways we roll out these services – in supply chain sustainability, in the fight against corruption and in promoting fair working conditions – we aim to contribute to positive change in the wider business communities and local economies.
What, though, are the tangible ways that organisations can incorporate commitment to SDG10 in their business? Here are some suggestions.
1: Partner up
The SDGs are ambitious, and to address them we need scale. Partnerships can play a critical role in providing that. About a month ago, I left the UN General Assembly in New York convinced that to arrive at sustainable solutions to the goals, partnerships can and must be central to the process.
Consider what your company would bring to any partnership, what your role in the equation would be and how each of you and your partners are to be held accountable for both the process and results. This is fundamental.
2: Focus and set goals
Reducing inequalities is a big job. Find a focus and set concrete commitments where your company can contribute in a meaningful way. This has been critical in our success in supporting #SDG10 so far. We have committed to specific goals that we are realistically able to deliver.
One of the focal points we have chosen is mobile birth registration. On this, we have partnered with UNICEF Pakistan and Plan International to use mobile technology to make sure that children are registered at birth. This ensures that their identity is recorded, that they are able to be protected and accounted for by authorities. The goal on this front is to register 7 million births by 2020. Another example is online child safety, where we aim to educate 4 million children in our markets in online safety-related topics and to help develop responsible online behavior. Other areas we are focused on include improving working conditions and employment in our large supply chain.
3: Be transparent
By all means, be ambitious about what you can do to reduce inequalities in your company and community. Once you get started, though, be open about how you’re doing it and where you are in the process. No one expects massive change overnight, so set realistic expectations and report on your progress; this is how you build trust and stay accountable with the people who depend on you to deliver.
4: Tie it to business
Solutions to reduce inequality that come from businesses must make ‘business sense’ to be sustainable. This means, commercially viable and sustainable solutions delivered in a responsible manner will be best positioned to support development of societies and reduce inequalities. Solutions can also come simply by the way we work, which can help raise standards both within our company and in our supply chain. Human rights are an integral part of this approach.
5: Experiment and scale
What we all do to support Reduced Inequalities needs to have impact on a broad scale. If you’re just getting started now, you have the chance to experiment within your company and your community. Start small, pilot and build from there. From the results of that work, prioritise the most impactful projects your business and your partners have had the most success with and are best positioned to deliver on. These partnerships can be with governments, IGOs, NGOs and other businesses as well. They could be through platforms bringing together expertise from various partners. There is also vast potential – across industries – to reduce inequalities via financial technology, in particular for women and migrant communities.
Now, let’s get to work
Start small, start local. Simply by raising your business’s own standards, you’re raising the bar for partners, suppliers and competitors, and eventually your local ecosystem is put on notice. We need authorities to support level playing fields for businesses so that we can continue to innovate solutions that play a role in further development of our communities. What works for society should work for business, too.
For more information on our #SDG10 – Reduced Inequalities commitment, please visit: www.telenor.com/sustainability/strategic-direction/sustainability-direction/