Sustainable Development Goal #9:
Implications and Actions for Business Sustainability



Hari Srinivas
Policy Analysis Series E-195. June 2023.


Abstract:

Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) #9 focuses on " building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and fostering innovation". This goal has implications for businesses that are focusing on sustainability, as it requires them to adopt practices that support long-term economic, social, and environmental development.

SDG9 calls for companies (among other stakeholders) to invest in sustainable infrastructure, adopt sustainable production practices, foster innovation, engage suppliers, increase access to financial services, and be transparent and accountable in their sustainability efforts to achieve the targets outlined in SDG #9.

Keywords:

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #9, Resilient infrastructure, Inclusive and sustainable industrialization, Innovation, Sustainable practices, Financial services, Transparency and accountability

Implications of SDG#9 for businesses focusing on sustainability

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #9 focuses on " building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and fostering innovation". This goal has significant implications for businesses that are focusing on sustainability, as it requires them to adopt practices that support long-term economic, social, and environmental development.


Figure 1: The SDG #9

One of the key implications of SDG #9 for businesses is the need to adopt sustainable infrastructure practices. This includes investments in renewable energy, green buildings, and smart transportation systems, which can help reduce their carbon footprint and minimize the impact of their operations on the environment.

Businesses are also expected to promote industrialization that is inclusive, environmentally friendly, and sustainable. This involves the adoption of clean production technologies, waste reduction, and the use of recycled materials, all of which can help reduce their environmental impact and promote sustainability.

Another important aspect of SDG #9 is fostering innovation for sustainability. Businesses must continuously strive to improve their products, processes, and operations to reduce their impact on the environment. Using their investments on research and development, as well as investments in new technologies, businesses can better help achieve their sustainability goals. Businesses can also collaborate with academic/research institutions and governments to develop new technologies that support sustainable development - technologies that are efficient in the use of material inputs and recycled wastes, as weel as efficient in the use of energy.


Figure 2: Business Perspectives on SDG 9

SDG #9 also impacts the supply chain operations of businesses. Companies can work with their suppliers to adopt sustainable practices that support long-term economic, social, and environmental development, including promotion sustainable agriculture, reducing waste, and minimizing the use of harmful chemicals. Companies can also ensure that their products are sourced from suppliers that use and produce sustainable materials and are manufactured in a way that minimizes their own impact on the environment.

Another aspect of SDG #9 is that it requires businesses to be transparent and accountable in their sustainability efforts. Companies must regularly report on their sustainability practices, including their progress towards achieving their sustainability goals. This helps to build trust with stakeholders (customers and the markets at large) and demonstrates a commitment to sustainability.

Examples of implications of SDG#9 for businesses:

  • adopt sustainable infrastructure practices
  • promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization
  • foster innovation in their research and development activities
  • work with suppliers to adopt sustainable practices
  • be transparent and accountable in their sustainability efforts
Key targets of SDG #9 and what businesses can do to achieve them

SDG #9 has three key targets:

  1. Build resilient infrastructure, including regional and transborder infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all.

  2. Promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, including through diversification and upgrading of production structures, and by fostering innovation.

  3. Increase the access of small-scale industrial and other businesses, in particular in developing countries, to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets.
Businesses can play a key role in achieving these targets by taking a number of actions:
  1. Investing in sustainable infrastructure: Businesses can invest in renewable energy, green buildings, and smart transportation systems to reduce their carbon footprint and minimize their impact on the environment.

  2. Adopting sustainable production practices: Businesses can adopt clean production technologies, reduce waste, and use recycled materials to minimize their environmental impact and promote sustainability.

  3. Fostering innovation: Businesses can invest in research and development, and collaborate with academic institutions and governments to develop new technologies that support sustainable development.


    Figure 3: Engaging Suppliers

  4. Engaging suppliers: Businesses can work with their suppliers to adopt sustainable practices that support long-term economic, social, and environmental development.

  5. Improving financial access: Businesses can increase access to financial services for small-scale industrial and other businesses, particularly in developing countries, including microfinance, to help them integrate into value chains and markets.

  6. Transparency and accountability: Businesses must be transparent and accountable in their sustainability efforts, regularly reporting on their progress towards achieving their sustainability goals.
Building trust in businesses' sustainability actions and avoiding the problem of greenwashing

Building trust in businesses' sustainability actions and avoiding the problem of greenwashing requires transparency, accountability, and third-party verification. Some specific steps that can be taken in this direction include:

  1. Set clear, measurable sustainability goals: Companies should set clear, measurable sustainability goals that are aligned with the SDGs, and regularly report on their progress towards achieving these goals through their sustainability reporting.

  2. Adopt industry standards and certifications: Companies can adopt industry standards and certifications, such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), ISO 14001, and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which help ensure that sustainability practices are transparent, accountable, and verifiable.

  3. Engage with stakeholders: Companies should engage with stakeholders, including employees, customers, suppliers, and investors, to understand their expectations and priorities and to build trust in their sustainability actions.


    Figure 4: Stakeholder Engagement

  4. Conduct independent audits and assessments: Companies can conduct independent third-party audits and assessments (involving experts, customer groups and other neutral stakeholders) to verify their sustainability practices and ensure that they are transparent and accountable.

  5. Collaborate with NGOs and civil society organizations: Companies can collaborate with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society organizations to help build trust in their sustainability actions and ensure that they are aligned with the SDGs.

  6. Be transparent about sustainability claims: Companies should be transparent about their sustainability claims, including the data and methods used to support them. This can help reduce the risk of greenwashing, as customers, investors, and other stakeholders can verify the accuracy of these claims.

  7. Continuously improve sustainability practices: Companies must continuously improve their sustainability practices to ensure that they are aligned with the SDGs and to build trust in their sustainability actions over time.
By taking these steps, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and build trust in their sustainability actions, reducing the risk of greenwashing and supporting the achievement of the SDGs.

Businesses have indeed been taking action towards sustainability even before the promulgation of the SDGs. But the SDGs (particularly SDG#9) provide an added impetus towards the push for sustainable development. While benefits of businesses' actions accrue to the society at large, for themselves, the benefits are clear: cost savings and profit maximization in the long run.



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