Ireland – BITC
What is your country’s government doing with respect to the SDGs and how have they engaged business around this agenda?
Ireland’s National Implementation Plan for the SDGs was released in April 2018. Ireland has adopted a ‘whole of government’ approach which means that individual Government Departments will have ownership of the SDG targets most relevant to their focus areas. This mainstreaming process maps existing national policies against the SDGs and will be reflected in their communications, reports on their sectoral polices.
In July 2018, Ireland presented its Voluntary National Review (VNR) which addressed each of the 17 SDGs to highlight Ireland’s national performance in detail, and prioritized the most urgent needs of the country. While performance in many areas is positive, challenges are evident in areas such as societal inequalities, housing, levels of obesity, gender equality, biodiversity, climate change mitigation and adaptation.
To date, there has been very little direct engagement with business from Government on this agenda in comparison to civil society. The National SDG Stakeholder Forum provides a mechanism for key stakeholders to engage on an ongoing basis in the national implementation of the Goals. Stakeholders are appointed as SDG champions and are invited to propose ideas to raise awareness in their various networks and demonstrate their SDG’s relevance across sectors.
For the private sector, the Corporate Social Responsibility Stakeholder forum supports business adopting CSR into their core business strategy. Their annual report and online platform encourages business to incorporate the SDGs into strategic planning, participate in networks and business chambers and provides best practice guidelines and case studies.
Geohive is Ireland’s public platform for exploring, downloading and combining publicly available data relating to the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) Sustainable Development Goals. Developed as part of a collaborative project between the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI), the Geohive utilizes state of the art geospatial technology, made available by ESRI Ireland, to map Ireland’s progress against each goal, using a set of globally and EU agreed indicators.
What are some of the key trends with regard to how business is engaging with the SDGs in your country?
In a survey we conducted with our members companies in 2018, participants showed a positive outlook, but a great deal of uncertainty about how best to engage. While the SDGs offer a new and vital opportunity for positive economic, social and environmental change, the scale, scope and complexity of the transformation required will need major alliances and support from business leadership teams.
52% of our members confirmed they are starting to integrate the SDGs into business strategy. This is mainly driven by international companies who have are further along the integration journey and are more avanced in their corporate sustainabiltiy disclosure. There remains a clear need to translate global SDG strategies into local requirements and contexts.
At our BITC events, most companies are acknowledging the importance of the SDGs, request workshops and guidance on how to incorporate the SDGs into materiality assessments.
As a major food producer and exporter, Ireland has focused on the agri-food sector via the Origin Green Programme which brings together the food industry with a common goal of sustainable food production and sustainable targets that respect the environment and serve local communities more effectively. To date over 600 companies have signed up to the programme which is having a considerable impact as membership of the program is confined to those setting and achieving targets aligned to the SDGs.
Partnerships and collaboration on key issues of sustainability are beginning to take shape, The Retail Action Group has signed the Food Waste Charter to reduce food agree and implement a transparent system of measuring wasted food and employ specific food waste prevention measures, this initiative specifically aligns to SDG 12.3. Collaboration with business and environmental actors has created Ireland’s first interactive climate change experience Cool Planet, which aligns to SDGs 11, 12 17.
What is your organization doing with respect to the SDGs?
We target the realization of the SDGs through our core service offerings which have been aligned to the SDG agenda. This includes Strategy, Education and Events programs, Business Working Responsibly mark, Business Action on Education Employment Programs and all communication.
Through our BITCI Leaders Group we support Ireland’s business sector in the transition to a low carbon economy with the launch of the first dedicated Low Carbon pledge to set industry standards on sustainability and reduce carbon usage. To date over half of our member companies have signed the agreement.
Our key focus:
- Advise the Irish Government on the role of the Irish Private Sector to the SDGs, its overall impact and contribution,
- Create awareness of the SDGs in Ireland and the role of the private sector to achieve the targets,
- Increase the integration of sustainability into business models and management of companies with a focus on using our standard, the Business Working Responsibly mark to achieve this,
- Create and communicate the business case for SDGs in an Irish context and thereby accelerate strategic action,
- Create a platform to support Irish business to integrate the SDGs into their work – best practice, tools, case studies, awards,
- Sector collaboration with multi-stakeholders including work as part of the Leaders’ Group on Sustainability, and active members of the CSR Forum and SDG Forum.
- Facilitate SDG workshops with member companies to align their business strategy,
- Partnership with UCD Smurfit Business School to understand the business case and seek deeper engagement.
A key next step is to conduct a study to identify the current status in Ireland, regarding the level of awareness and willingness of Irish business towards integrating the SDGs into their strategy.
Websites: Business in the community Sustainable Development goals; National Government Implementation Plan; Voluntary National Review; Sustainable Development Awards; Geohive to view Ireland’s progress against each goal
Make Ireland Sustainable is a collaboration between 25 project partners across 12 EU member states aiming to raise awareness with SME’s at a local community level and encourage action through funding and support. The project is being implemented in Ireland by the Irish Environmental Network, World Vision IRleand, ECO UNESCO and Social Justice Ireland.
Coalition 2030 is an alliance of over 100 civil society organizations working together to ensure Ireland keeps its promise to achieve the SDG’s both in Ireland and abroad. The coalition is made up of both international and domestic NGO’s along with youth organizations, environmental groups, academics and trade unions who identify and report on key issues that warrant particular attention with regard to Ireland’s implementation of the SDG’s.
Contact: Suzanne Delaney, Corporate Responsibility Consultant