Introduction

Strengthening resilience: the importance of the SDGs

The COVID-19 pandemic shows in a very significant way the interconnection between extra-financial and financial risks, making the integration of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs – 2030 Agenda program) more decisive than ever to ensure the future.

Indeed, the world will never be changed by the pandemic. After the crisis, in the recovery phase, societal and governance issues will be equally crucial and will entail an increased need for dialogue and social innovation. Neither the environmental emergency, nor sustainable consumption trends or social and political pressures will disappear. Even more than performance, the notion of resilience will be key.

While the 17 SDGs repository allows us to understand the causal chain of this multi-impact crisis, it also represents a benchmark development point for economic actors.

The challenge

Social utility: a new imperative for business

The SDGs are uniting people around the important issues. This is catalysing cooperation and knowledge sharing in unprecedented ways… 2020 is a momentous year for change. It could be a real wakeup call and pivot in human history turning the tide on a number of societal issues of our times.

It is increasingly urgent for business to engage with these issues, in a context where the State no longer has the monopoly on the general interest in the face of intermediary bodies. But we really need a step change in the scale and depth of their engagement.

Indeed, leading businesses can provide (through innovation, investment, engagement, etc.) an extraordinary boost in solving sustainable challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis, on the basis of the SDGs. In turn, these challenges can amplify the opportunity for business to be successful by improving the enabling environment and by providing inspiration and direction.

In addition, this crisis highlights the absolute need to work on one of the pillars of these SDGs: the partnership between all economic actors, public and citizens – underlined by the 17th.

The solution we bring to the table

SDG CoLab

SDG CoLab is a tool for managing calls to action on sustainability issues, linked to the crisis of COVID-19 and the emerging New World, on the scale of a determined territory (national and regional). Thus, it enables consultation and cooperation between different actors and allows to "scan" the 3 pillars (social, economic and environmental) of sustainable development with calls to action and their progress in real time, offering a 360-degree view of the societal issues of each country and region.

The main goal of SDG CoLab is based on the societal challenge’s identification – to which the State and local authorities struggle to contribute and on which a leverage effect nevertheless exists – in order to enable companies to respond to these unmet needs.

Like the 2030 Agenda, SDG CoLab is:

  • Universal: all countries can use it;
  • Transversal: the 3 pillars of sustainable development are addressed in a systemic way;
  • Transformative: it aims to change the society model and behaviour.

Thus, this instrument acts as a catalyst and promoter of sustainability because it allows concrete innovation, encouraging economic actors to publicly commit to contribute to major societal challenges through participative and inclusive collective action (business partnerships, communities, citizens, associations...). Indeed, this approach seeks to share knowledge, powers and responsibilities: it introduces a new way of public decision-making and evaluation for public action, a change in the political world's posture vis-à-vis the population and socio-economic actors. Also, it promotes the advent of a new territorial and civic culture and renews the way the decisions are built.

What we have done during the weekend

During the weekend, we aimed to transform the SDG CoLab idea into something real, through a strong involvement in the preparation of the platform design and structure (such as the SDG CoLab user interface), and also, in the strategy implementation of the project, so that it is clearly organized with a synergy between all its components to allow its execution.

Thus, SDG CoLab has been designed as a roadmap for all economic actors, at national and regional level, which is part of a dynamic of action:

  • to respond, firstly, to the societal challenges generated by COVID-19, as well as to anticipate and deal with future crises;
  • and then, more broadly, to achieve a social consensus around the UN's transformational goal (as part of the program of 17 SDGs by 2030).

This roadmap offers a real framework for action, and sets a common and shared course for creating a fairer, more prosperous and sustainable society – with a mindset of co-responsibility, open governance and partnership, both nationally and territorially.

Methodology

SDG CoLab embraces a positive and sustainable innovation methodology based on 3 decisive elements:

  • Piloting management: setting up a dashboard;
  • Participation: co-construction of calls to action with civil society;
  • Reporting: integration of monitoring and evaluation indicators for each call to action.

Furthermore, it is important to note that the correspondence table established between the various challenges facing a country and the calls to action proposed to address them is based on an exploratory and iterative process: the roadmap will have to be reworked continuously, especially at the community level to account for their own impacts and contributions.

Themes

To meet current issues and achieve the SDGs at the necessary scale and speed, the calls to action are organized and structured around 4 main categories, known as "4Ps" – Planet, People, Prosperity, and Peace. Each SDG (except for the 17th that is cross-cutting) can be classified in one of these categories according to the following table:

  • People: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
  • Prosperity: 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.
  • Planet: 6, 12, 13, 14 and 15.
  • Peace: 16.

Call to action

Each call to action is structured as follows:

  • Title
  • Description
  • Category (4P)
  • Territory concerned (national/regional)
  • Contribution (funding, human capital, services/products, or other)
  • Deadline
  • Period of time (short, medium or long-term)
  • Key indicators
  • Relative SDGs
  • Committed companies

To strengthen the synergy between the different actors, a forum is created for each project, based on a sharing of knowledge and skills, as well as a transparent and constructive dialogue around the identified issue.

Participation

All economic players are called upon to contribute to the success of this platform. Indeed, in parallel with the State's contribution to defining the main calls to action to meet the challenges arising from the crisis and the future expectations of the New World, all "non-State" actors must also actively participate: local authorities, public bodies and institutions, associations, businesses, academies, etc.

» Government & local authorities

In addition to the government, local authorities are recognized by citizens as actors of a framework of proximity, and therefore of democratic participation. So, it matters they participate in the unveiling of the various levers of action to the extent of the urgency of the situation.

» NGOs, voluntary sector & educational and research institutions

The participation and involvement of the associative and academic sector is also encouraged, to give more meaning to the actions proposed and improve the environment of our society.

» Citizens

It is also in the interest of citizens to contribute to the identification of the key issues facing their community. Therefore, citizens will be asked to rely first on the thematic groups already constituted and propose issues that are poorly represented or not considered.

» Private sector

SDG CoLab is a new incentive for companies to think about acting in a more virtuous way, allowing them to contribute more positively to society. The proposed actions can feed the brand, and in particular, its positioning or "purpose". Businesses are more than ever essential actors in solving major societal challenges. Thus, by responding to these issues, through a positive innovation and transparency exercise, companies will be able to reinvent themselves and nurture their raison d'être, while giving a more strategic dimension to their governance, employee engagement, and brand value.

More concretely, the participation of the different actors is organized according to 2 approaches:

  • Submit a challenge: public sector, non-profit organizations and citizens can contribute a challenge to be solved. Challenges can be submitted directly by registering online through the platform SDG CoLab;
  • Solve a challenge: any business, regardless of its size and industry sector, is invited to participate to address specific challenges, by signing up on the platform.

Monitoring

To monitor the calls to action and therefore the contribution of companies to the main societal challenges, quantitative and qualitative indicators are defined:

  • Input indicators: these indicators provide information about the approach of an action, i.e. the people and resources that are used to achieve a certain goal or action. Classic input indicators are financial resources, number of employees mobilized, products or services offered, etc;
  • Impact indicators: these indicators measure the mobilisation impact of an operational action and the result of its achievement.

The solution’s impact to the crisis

Reinforce social cohesion

  • Increase the participation of different civil society actors and ensure effective cooperation;
  • Enable transparency and establish an open, participatory and constructive diagnosis that relies on the mobilization of local actors in the context of the development and implementation of concrete and operational actions;
  • Ensure a coherent and local approach to societal issues relating to a given territory (particularly through nation and regional calls to action);
  • Support collective action by facilitating the acculturation of the SDGs, social citizenship, and societal innovation to reconnect with real needs, and provide solutions that truly contribute to these challenges.
  • Make people aware of the assets and potentials they have for their development, to create a mobilizing observation, an appropriation of the local development context and a trigger for social change among populations;
  • Collect information on identified issues, highlight stakeholder expectations regarding these challenges, and learn about endogenous or locally developed initiatives to address some of the concerns raised by the crisis.

Increase national and local resilience

  • Promote capacity building (resources and knowledge) of government and local communities to help them address the various issues identified, while redirecting the private sector action plan;
  • Bring business strategies closer to national and regional priorities, aligned with the urgent challenges posed by COVID-19 and linked to the New World;
  • Mobilize concrete levers of action, through the SDGs repository, primarily intended for States, by adapting it to the entire entrepreneurial network and using it as a real operational action tool rather than a simple guide to support CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) strategies;
  • Use a common language and shared actions that help companies to act in a more coherent and effective way with stakeholders, address the most pressing societal challenges, align priorities with the SDGs, strengthen business engagement, and increase their value and impact on society;
  • Design a framework of reference for a multi-stakeholder action lever, that any country can appropriate according to its priorities, both nationally and regionally.

The necessities in order to continue the project

To create the multi-stakeholders platform from our model designed and implement the project, we are collaborating with the Portuguese sustainability consultancy, Sustainable Society Initiative (SSI). SSI will be the main promoter and operator of the project, ensuring the management and involvement of all the institutional stakeholders, and assuming the communication with the different target audiences (citizens, businesses, public entities, etc.) through information and awareness actions.

Besides, we should develop a partnership with SDG Compass - the combined working group of the UN Global Compact (UNGC), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) - in order to create a steering committee. More specifically, this panel will make recommendations to the States and communities on priority challenges, review challenge submissions, ensure the implementation of the actions and the mobilization of all stakeholders in society, and monitor the real contribution of companies for each call to action.

Thus, by working hand-in-hand with the steering committee, we should ensure that the following steps are carried out:

Participatory diagnosis

  • Help identify unmet socio-environmental problems with the participation of government, local authorities, associations, and citizens;
  • Define the main lines of action (issues prioritization).

Strategy

  • Develop a concrete action plan and strategy for each identified societal issue;
  • Prioritize issues according to the territory;
  • Define performance indicators: expected results, timeline, resources required and monitoring indicators.

Monitoring

  • Establish multi-player partnerships;
  • Mobilize and coordinate all calls to action;
  • Check and monitor the implementation of the various actions (progress trajectory analyses with the companies’ contribution on these short and long-term challenges) to measure their level of achievement;
  • Highlight the companies involved in each issue.

Likewise, we should ensure that SDG CoLab is developed in consonance with a collaborative and evolving process. It will be necessary to raise awareness and involve all economic players in each country and region so that this instrument is as complete and inclusive as possible.

It will also be necessary to establish a partnership with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) to highlight the societal priorities set by each country of the European Union to deal with the crisis and apprehend the New World. This data will then be displayed, in real time, in the form of a dashboard reporting the societal performance of the EU and its 28 Member States out of the 17 SDGs and providing detailed country profiles.

The value of our solution after the crisis

SDG CoLab is a multi-stakeholder tool to establish a new social contract for a fairer, more equitable and sustainable transition. Through this instrument, we want to facilitate the appropriation of the most urgent challenges posed by COVID-19 and the implementation of the relative calls to action by the different economic actors – while offering a "trajectory of meaning and coherence", allowing a projection into the New World.

More than a tool, SDG CoLab is a multi-stakeholder project aimed at creating a solidary community in order to reinforce social cohesion and increase the resilience of the national and local economic system. In this sense, the philosophy of the project is based on the consolidation of local interactions through a democratic, solidary and participatory experience – for long-term and short-term challenges.

Also, our project is a laboratory for the development of Social Innovation, which aims to transform the society by leveraging human capital. This project rests on two axes: on the one hand, leading the different stakeholders to question the phenomena (economic, sociological, ecological...) that affect society and the importance of human action in these transformations. And, on the other hand, bringing people together in times of crisis, converting convictions into impacts.

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