The implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals is a top priority. Beyond the commitment made by international organizations and governments, local territories and actors have a key role to play in contributing to achieving them. Certain French regions have started getting involved in them. In the Voironnais region, near Grenoble in France, the sustainable development consultancy firm B&L Évolution sensitizes, supports and advises companies in the region so that they can fully contribute to achieving the SDGs at their level. An interview with Sylvain Boucherand, CEO of B&L Evolution.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been defined and adopted by the international community. In your opinion, what are the challenges for the implementation of the SDGs at local level and what types of action can achieve this?
The Sustainable Development Goals are the common international roadmap for the transition to sustainable development. While they have been adopted by States, they are intended for all actors – governments, local authorities, companies, associations, trade unions, citizens like you and me –, as we are all concerned by environmental, social and economic issues. Everyone can and must contribute to the SDGs, depending on their capacities, to eradicate poverty and inequalities, protect biodiversity and ensure prosperity for all.
This multi-stakeholder mobilization is the key to the success of the SDGs, and it must take place at all levels – global and local alike. The “localization of the SDGs” involves applying this global agenda at local level and working in partnership with all the stakeholders in territories to implement transformative projects. I think that the SDGs are a driver for addressing a number of challenges we are facing, and for doing so by stepping outside our usual silos.
What opportunities can be seized from the local implementation of the SDGs? Can you give us an example of a French territory which is particularly mobilized for the SDGs?
Pioneering territories have started taking action for the local implementation of the SDGs, as they are aware that it involves a clear, common and innovative framework. Indeed, it allows everyone to take on board the issues of the consumption of natural resources, education, pollution, decent work, gender equality, food, the creation of resilient infrastructure, research, etc. It is a tool for local dialogue and the common construction of a successful vision of the transition of territories, at various levels, local as well as departmental, for example the Gironde.
This is the case for the Voironnais region near Grenoble, which has decided to use the SDGs to mobilize the economic actors in its territory. The Voironnais region is already engaged in a “Sustainable Territory 2020” sustainable development approach and has undertaken a number of actions that contribute to the achievement of several SDGs. For example, it has an effect on SDG 11 (Cities and sustainable communities), with an urban restructuring program based on the involvement of residents, improving access, social diversity, soft modes of transport (walking, cycling…), the reduction of inequalities. And its energy transition program contributes to SDG 7 (Ensure universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy services) and 13 (Combat climate change and its impacts).
To get companies in the territory involved in this approach, the Voironnais region is organizing a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) club to discuss and move forward with sustainable development practices in economic activities. So, it seemed natural for the local authority and companies to focus on the SDGs. Our sustainable development consultancy firm B&L évolution has furthered the approach by assisting the territory in conducting an assessment of the contribution that local economic actors make to the SDGs. It shows that everyone’s action for a given SDG is complementary and that synergies need to be implemented between territories and companies for certain priorities that are not yet sufficiently taken into account, such as biodiversity, for example. This demonstrates that the SDGs are a common language.
It is often said that the private sector is a major actor in financing and implementing the SDGs. In your opinion, are companies sufficiently aware of these issues? Which sectors does their mobilization mainly focus on?
The private sector is indeed a key driver for the success of Agenda 2030. It is often the large groups which take steps to integrate the SDGs into their strategies. This will create market opportunities and transform their way of doing business. But we also see microenterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) getting involved, and this is really good news! They are from a wide range of sectors, from energy and water to banks, including business services, distribution, the luxury industry or real estate.
However, we need to continue raising the awareness of all companies to ensure that all sectors initiate the changes required for achieving the SDGs. Together with partners (Global Compact France, CNCDH, Association 4D), we have made a practical guide for businesses to guide them on the implementation of the SDGs. It explains how companies are concerned, what can be the risks and opportunities of each SDG, and gives ideas for action and feedback from SMEs or large groups.
To my mind, companies can and must take three types of action to integrate the SDGs into their strategies. Firstly in-house, by questioning their management methods and production processes: How do they do away with discrimination? Do they respect human rights? Curb pollution?
The second driver for action concerns the company’s products and services, as well as its value chain: How does it do away with the negative impacts that its products or services have on the environment? How does it innovate to come up with solutions for the SDGs? How does it mobilize its value chain to contribute to achieving the SDGs?
Finally, companies can sensitize, mobilize and support all their stakeholders in terms of achieving the SDGs, via philanthropic activities and partnerships. We can clearly see that each sector, each actor is concerned at their respective levels.
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