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Legislating the SDGs

6 October 2020
Reading Time: 3 mins

Jason Longhurst, Chairman UKBCSD

At the start of the year, the only element we didn't predict was Covid-19 and our ability to respond, overcome fragility and address the new desire for a green revolution.   It was enough of a scene setter, in UKBCSD's 21st year, to reset how we position our membership to shape the strategic path to recovery and continue to positively disrupt the norm.   Now we are calling on our members to respond, defining opportunity and innovation in the most challenging enviro-economic years we are likely to live through. 

As a sector we need to make an investment shift, we need to approach the interlocking challenges of economic uncertainty and sustainability, making them a mutual value creation, with manifest benefits, that deliver against both the climate challenge and sustainable growth.

The public sector too is facing one of its most complex periods of change, challenge and opportunity.  Whether it is a climate emergency, crisis or challenge, net zero or real zero, single use or reduced plastics, is the public sector clear on the impact benefits it seeks to achieve?  The language is complicated, the actions and demands are many and the measure of success not clear or aligned.  The public sector has huge potential to connect services and people, to shape a sustainable approach that is transitional for our sector and measurable in terms of positive outcomes.  Having spent my career in the public sector, I would question whether it is really meeting the climate challenge, instead resting on pledges and platitudes.

Which segues me neatly into the UN 2030 SDGs.   My former Authority, Central Bedfordshire Council, set an approach that seeks to benchmark its actions against the SDGs. This will harness the organisation’s potential to address wider climate impacts, more than just carbon targets but far-reaching sustainability in all it does.  Other major areas are taking this on board, as they seek to become leaders in the green recovery.

I am not alone in believing that the SDGs should be embedded in every decision that is made, by all of us.  In a few weeks’ time we will be holding a closed Round Table discussion on this subject, supported by long standing member ENGIE, the results of which will be taken to a second, ‘public’ webinar in December, when we will invite questions and further debate.  We ask you, the UKBCSD membership, as leaders in your field, to help shape a proposition to Government, a demand for Legislation that will embed the SDGs within every public sector Invitation To Tender.  The aim is to apply the SDG benchmark metric to others, establishing an approach that goes beyond carbon counting, to driving sustainable places – a new SDG Act 2021 replacing the Social Value Act of 2012. Time to lead, not retrofit, sustainability to today’s challenges.

 In other words, “Demonstrate you are responding to the SDGs and you can work with the public sector.  If you can’t, end of story.  Must try harder. A lot harder”. 

The logical conclusion should be that the public sector will partner businesses like yours, the ones that have proven, tangible results, based on innovation, investment and commitment to sustainability.  I hope you’ll join us at our December event – details will be available soon.