Five Ways to Help Reach the Sustainable Development Goals in Your Professional Life #SDGSandME

Petra Barbu

Petra is a content marketer passionate about social enterprise, impact investing, and microfinance.

Not everyone can dedicate their lives to social impact work, but just because you’re working at a fulltime job at a for-profit corporation doesn’t mean you can’t contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. As we teach the professionals in our social impact + career growth program, the reality is that social impact is now something that can happen in every sector and workplace environment.

By mobilizing your co-workers and company to join together to make steps towards the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, you can create real change, and maybe tap into your purpose while you’re at it.

While our earlier post highlighted what you can do in your Personal Life to help achieve the SDGs, this next post in the #SDGSandME series is sharing 5 things you can do in your Professional Life to contribute to the great good:

1. Educate yourself and your co-workers

The first step to creating an engaged and socially conscious work force is to gather knowledge and educate your peers. You can bring up the SDGs casually over coffee conversations, or take more initiative and host a Global Goals educational event to introduce yourself and your colleagues to the Goals. Recently, IMPACT2030, a nonprofit focused on connecting the private sector to the SDGs through human capital investments, launched Introducing the Global Goals. This tool, developed in partnership with the Medtronic Foundation, and Aim2Flourish, is a 60-minute lesson you can use to educate yourself and your colleagues about the Global Goals. This lesson facilitates a conversation around the SDGs and allows you and your colleagues to think about the Goals in the context of your lives, no matter where you live.

As Kim Vu, the Senior Vice President of Enterprise Business and Community Engagement at Bank of America recommends:

“Share stories about the impact of engagement for yourself, your company and the community with your peers. It’s infectious. Nothing inspires a team more than knowing that others around them are making a contribution and impact. Find fun and creative ways to storytell and invite others to participate and share why they volunteer their time, treasure and talents.”

Corporations are becoming more involved with sustainable development: don't be left behind.
Corporations are becoming more involved with sustainable development: don’t be left behind.

Here are some easy things you can do to get your professional peers talking about the SDGs:

  1. It can be as easy as bringing up the goals and their impact during lunch or at the watercooler. Check out the Global Goals page for some great resources to help you start a conversation.
  2. Follow bloggers and news sites that are covering the SDGs. Some of the favorites of our team members include:
    • Fakequity blogs about racial equity and covers honestly what works and what doesn’t, discussing the differences in intent and impact for hard-hitting issues like diversity, inclusion, and community engagement.
    • Nonprofit with Balls is an irreverent blog highlighting effective nonprofit workers, systems, and organizations, as well as discussing when groups get it wrong and how to avoid these pitfalls.
    • Everyday Feminism is an educational platform that aims to combat sexism, discrimination of all kinds, and marginalization.
    • The Guardian is a global news sits with a section dedicated to the SDGs.
  3. If you’re looking to take it a step further than casual conversation, a fun idea to spark conversation is to host an Introducing the Global Goals lesson or host a brown-bag lunch and watch this engaging video with your peers.
  4. You can also distribute more in-depth information about the SDGs intersection with business through one of the aids provided by the Business Commission.
  5. Check out some exciting tools from Devex to help businesses address the SDGs, including a way to measure the impact on poverty of your company’s activities and an SDG compass that provides personalized guidance for organizations to become more involved.
Starting your campaign is just a few steps away!
Starting your campaign at your workplace is simple.

2. Start fundraising campaigns at work

Once your co-workers are informed and educated about the cause, a great way to get more involved is to start fundraising campaigns to support the goals. Host a company car wash, donate your skills, and create challenges. Tools like BrightFunds and the Global Impact SDG Fund make it easy to start without formal approval. Friendly competition between work teams to see who can raise the most money is a great way to kickstart momentum. Check out this article for more fundraising and corporate giving ideas.

Focusing on a specific SDG can be a great way to impact change through your workplace.
Focusing on a specific SDG can be a great way to impact change through your professional environment.

3. Promote volunteering and capacity building

As Beltina Gjeloshi, Action Team Manager at IMPACT2030, explains,

“One way to play a role in impacting the Sustainable Development Goals is by participating in your company’s employee volunteer programs. For me the most important aspect of the SDGs is that they are applicable to every country and provide a common language and a common framework covering the societal and environmental challenges facing our world. At IMPACT2030 we recently launched Employees Teach the Global Goals, a companion to the Introducing the Global Goals lesson, for employees to take their SDG education and volunteer in their community and educate young people on the power of the SDGs. We developed this volunteering resource in collaboration with the World’s Largest Lesson, to mobilize millions of employee volunteers to help advance the SDGs in the communities where they live and work.”

Volunteering with your company increases your impact and is a great way to build skills, and corporate responsibility is more popular now than ever. Below is a short list of ways to encourage volunteering within your organization. Check out this article in Triple Pundit for a practical guide on how to pilot a skills-based corporate volunteering program at your company, and read-up on this approach to getting social change initiatives off the ground that was featured in Fast Company.

All of your business decisions have environmental consequences, and reducing these can make a huge impact.
All of your business decisions have environmental consequences, and reducing these can make a huge impact.

4. Do more good by doing less harm

Often the best way to make an impact towards reaching the SDGs is to stop doing the many things that cause more harm than good. For more ideas on how to reduce the negative footprint of everyday business interactions, check out this feature in Huffington Post about how we can do less harm to help achieve the SDGs. A few key highlights include:

  1. Be cognizant when sourcing office materials. Analyze the impact of each company’s supply chains to ensure you’re not supporting child labor, sweatshops, or ecological destruction that only takes us further from the SDGs.
  2. Address gender inequality in the workplace by putting pressure on company executives and managers to be transparent about wage gaps in the company in order to take steps to amend this.
  3. Advocate for your company to engage in a program like Microsoft’s carbon fee to donate money to offset the environmental effects of doing business.

But make sure to take a strategic approach to these programs. As Kim Vu explains

“Advocacy on behalf of organizations aligned with your company’s philanthropic priorities is also another great way to engage civically. Many nonprofit organizations host visits to the Capital or with legislators and having voices like yours from the community, support a nonprofit’s organization’s work is sometimes critical to whether that organization can continue to receive government funding for their programs and mission.”

The only way to impact true change is by doing it together.
The only way to impact true change is by doing it together.

5. Use your connections to empower changemakers

Whether you know it or not, you have a network that could be invaluable to a changemaker trying to take steps towards making the SDGs a reality. One of the best ways to create change is to connect with others trying to create change. One person alone cannot change the world, but together we have a real chance. Here are things you can do from the comfort of your work desk to build meaningful connections:

  1. Join the Global Innovation Exchange and choose from several ways to get involved. You can help an entrepreneur, test an innovation, find funding, or share your resources.
  2. Join the Sustainable Development Solutions Network to engage in global discussions about sustainability.
  3. Look for other opportunities with SDG initiatives that your business can support. Whether it’s connecting on sustainable technology, gender equality, or scientific innovation, there are abundant opportunities to make a difference by tapping into this SDG network.
  4. Join an Employee or Business Resource Group, and use them to collaborate with other companies to host events, share best practices, or lead conversations on hard-hitting issues including gender equity, race, and transgender rights.
There is a huge intersection of the private sector and efforts to promote the SDGs.
There is a huge intersection of the private sector and efforts to promote the SDGs.

There’s a bigger intersection between business and the Sustainable Development Goals than you might think; it is in the best interest of everyone to create a healthier and more equal world. In fact, there are at least 7 research-backed reasons that demonstrate that companies can benefit by being more responsible.

And for you personally, you’ll benefit be leading these changes. By working in collaboration with your team, organization, and company, you can build your skills, grow closer as a group, and help bring the world a few steps closer to reaching the SDGs by 2030. If you’re looking to change the world through your professional life, just remember:

  1. Educate
  2. Fundraise
  3. Volunteer
  4. Do less harm
  5. Connect
The professional sphere is one of the most powerful areas to make tangible change.

For guidance in finding more purpose in your work and creating a positive impact with your career, apply to our MovingWorlds Institute Global Fellowship.