Universal and inclusive, the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals represent an ambitious challenge for the benefit of the planet and humanity. Living in peace and prosperity (by 2030), acting together to eradicate poverty and protect the planet are the guidelines for the 17 SDGs. What do the Sustainable Development Goals mean and how can we achieve these UN Global Goals? What is the importance of the CSR concept in the pursuit of the 2015 SDGs? How to apply the CSR strategy in an SDG logic? What are the impacts of volunteer actions at the local level in a CSR strategy to this end? How can CSR strategy levers help a company to achieve the SDGs?

Le développement durable doit respecter des dimensions (graphique du rapport Brundtland)

  • ecologically sustainable, liveable and viable
  • social and human livable, sustainable and equitable
  • economically viable, sustainable and equitable.

Sustainable development is the result of a balance between three major aspects: economic, social and environmental, to which the process of implementing the 17 SDGs is linked. The contextualization of the Corporate Social Responsibility policy at the local level offers a favourable environment for achieving the 17 SDGs. As a voluntary but also engaging approach, the CSR policy.

What does the acronym SDO mean and how does it relate to CSR?

Reminder on the 17 SDGs

Le 25 septembre 2015, 17 Objectifs de développement durable ont été fixés aux Nations Unies par 193 pays à la suite des 8 Objectifs du Millénaire pour le Développement OMD une décennie plus tôt. Ce précédent programme des OMD est approuvé afin de lutter contre l’extrême pauvreté (inégalité économique), le changement climatique, promouvoir la paix et la justice et les modes de consommation durable.

Sustainable Development Goals

Le nouveau programme des ODD doit approfondir les engagements en préservant les acquis des objectifs atteints. En référence à 17 objectifs universels qui sont :

  1. eradicate poverty
  2. Eradicate hunger
  3. Provide broad access to health care for better health and well-being
  4. Provide quality education
  5. Achieve gender equality
  6. provide access to clean water and sanitation facilities
  7. ensure access to affordable clean energy services
  8. combine economic growth with decent work
  9. harnessing innovation for infrastructure and industry
  10. reduce inequality
  11. create sustainable communities and cities
  12. adopt more responsible production and consumption practices
  13. adopt measures to combat climate change and its impacts
  14. respect for aquatic life
  15. respect for terrestrial life
  16. effective institutions to ensure peace and justice for all
  17. Building partnerships to achieve the SDGs.

Who is concerned?

The 17 objectives of the 2030 Agenda apply to all stakeholders in sustainable development in a logic of cross-cutting development approaches: companies, citizens, but also governments, institutions, trade unions, think tanks, NGOs, associations, local authorities … users, consumers or customers.
In short, achieving the Agenda 2030 SDGs calls for the mobilization of all stakeholders in sustainable development: popular mobilization and citizen mobilization. For economic and social actors, this mobilization translates into the relevance of volunteerism strengthening solidarity, civic engagement and social inclusion through participatory mechanisms. Sustainable development cannot be truly achieved by institutional actions alone.

Businesses and local communities are a cornerstone in this Horizon 2030 change agenda: the SDGs must influence stakeholders' decisions in the direction of a CSR-based policy. Moreover, the last objective aims to weave a partnership of all stakeholders, i.e. between companies and their direct environment. The question is therefore: what contribution does a business leader make to sustainable development at the local level?

What are the indicators of the SDGs International Agenda to 2030?

SDG targets for companiesIndicators
fifth and tenth SDGsmonitoring the under-representation of women in management positions (indicator 5) - monitoring progress in women's access to employment (indicator 5.1.1) - progress in the fight against violence in the workplace (indicator 5.2)
sixth SDGmonitoring of the proportion of wastewater treated safely (indicator 6.3.1) - data on the change in water use efficiency (indicator 6.4.1) - assessment of the amount paid by the company to official development assistance for water and sanitation (government-coordinated spending plan, indicator 6.a.1)
seventh ODDshare of renewable energy in final energy consumption (indicator 7.2.1) - monitoring of efforts to use clean energy
eighth SDGindex of average hourly earnings of employees with disabilities (indicator 8.5.1) - monitoring of the proportion of young people under 24 who are not in school and have no training (8.6.1) - monitoring of the frequency of fatal and non-fatal accidents at work (indicator 8.8. Proportion of adults and employees with an account in a financial institution or using mobile money services (indicator 8.10.2) - Existence of a national strategy to promote youth employment (indicator 8.b.1 )
twelfth SGDassessment of the material footprint and monitoring of the rational use of natural resources (indicator 12.2.1) - generation of hazardous waste (indicator 12.4.2) - monitoring publication of sustainability reports (indicator 12.6.1)
fifteenth SDGassessing progress towards sustainable forest management (indicator 15.2.1)
sixteenth SDGmonitoring the proportion of employees who were victims of violence in the previous 12 months and who reported the incident (indicator 16.3.1)

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting all sectors of the economy, creating both a global economic and social crisis that requires companies to rethink how they contribute to sustainable development goals.

Other UNDP indicators on the African continent

As of March 2017, 232 indicators for monitoring progress have been proposed. This list is not necessarily applicable in its entirety due to the unique characteristics of each country and all national contexts. Each state is free to choose its own set of indicators for monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals at the national level. This depends on its situation, realities and priorities.

SODDA or Suivi des Objectifs de Développement Durables en Afrique (Monitoring Sustainable Development Goals in Africa) has the mission to monitor statistical data of French-speaking African countries in the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals. This project supports the measurement of progress on three of the 17 major SDGs:

  • SDG 2: Ensure food security and eradicate hunger (promote sustainable agriculture)
  • MDG 8: Decent work for all and promote sustainable economic growth with full employment
  • SDG 16: Access to justice for all at all levels, promoting effective and inclusive institutions.

The UNDP annually presents a set of four indicators (economic, social and environmental) on human development in the world:

  • HDI Human Development Index (three data, GDP per capita index, life expectancy at birth index, and adult literacy index summed with school enrollment) ;
  • HPI Human Poverty Index, variant HPI-1 for developing countries on the African continent, deficiencies or gaps in the three basic dimensions of the human development index (risk of dying at an early age, not reaching 40 years of age, lack of access to a decent standard of living such as water points and adult illiteracy). The HPI-2 variant for developed countries (probability of dying before age 60, adult illiteracy rate for ages 16 to 65, percentage of people below the poverty line, and percentage of long-term unemployed)
  • Gender-related development index (GDI), or an assessment of the differences between men and women according to the three HDI criteria; countries with a high HDI are characterized by a high GDI
  • GEM, leadership, senior management, parliamentary representation, income gap. High HDI countries are characterized by a high GEM (benchmark for reducing inequality).

Sustainable development and CSR strategy of a company

While sustainable development is aimed at all spheres of society, the term CSR is aimed exclusively at companies and organizations. Both terms push actors to pursue common goals.
Ecology, prosperity and innovative economy: these are the three major interests of the SDGs to which companies can aspire by integrating the SDGs into their Corporate Social Responsibility policy. The sustainable development objectives must be perceived as a lever for CSR on the continent, as a factor of attractiveness to the public and as an opportunity to gain market share.
From a global point of view, the sustainable development ODD and the CSR policy are part of a three-dimensional framework:

  • ecological dimension
  • social dimension
  • economic dimension

The first notion covers efforts to respect the environment and the sustainable development approach for the benefit of all people. The Sustainable Development Goals provide a common frame of reference for convergent actions in achieving the SDGs.

The second concept, CSR policy (or OSR, i.e. Organizational Social Responsibility), is more concerned with the actors of society, both private and public. This CSR concept focuses on how to improve the quality of life of all stakeholders who come into contact with the company: employees and, also, the community.
The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) therefore brings the SDGs to the business world (private sector).
Many private economic actors have adopted them in their strategy, in their communication and their actions. Well integrated, in particular for companies, the 17 SDGs are today the basis for action on two levels

  • internal strategy (e.g. recruitment, especially of women, and career development)
  • actions in their area of influence (relations with stakeholders, customers, producers, suppliers and subcontractors).

Nowadays, large companies, SMEs and VSEs must necessarily align their CSR actions with the strategies of the universal sustainable development objectives, taking into account their own specificities. The leaders of these companies can thus act on :

  • product or service innovation (by developing production methods that emit less greenhouse gas or new products that consume less energy)
  • Humanitarianism at the heart of the company in its relationship with stakeholders (
  • decent work by working only with partners and suppliers who respect human rights and safety at work).

To enhance the value of their actions and commitments, and to improve the transparency of their activities and practices, companies can currently use CSR reporting, also known as non-financial reporting. This document is a means of communicating the concrete results of companies in achieving the SDGs in order to involve all stakeholders.
Published annually, it structures the CSR approach and can serve as a dashboard for the CSR manager in each company or organization.

Stakes of CSR on the performance of a company in a sustainable development logic

Here is a list of the benefits of applying CSR within a responsible and ethical company:

  • improved quality of life at work
  • reduced energy consumption and lower operating costs
  • reduction of costs and risks
  • better management of natural resources (positive environmental footprint) and waste (waste recovery to be integrated in a second production circuit)
  • reduced environmental impact
  • improved brand image (green business)
  • consumer confidence in the brand (purchasing decisions influenced by ecology and ethics), leading to customer loyalty
  • total transparency and competitive advantage (level of safety and quality of products, production methods and practices)
  • recruitment leverage, to federate motivated and dynamic teams
  • recruitment of workers in integration and disabled people
  • better management of human resources risks, development of new management methods focused on people, improvement of working conditions (layout of premises, signage).

Sustainable development and its impact on the company

Companies are the major economic actors encouraged to include the SDGs in their strategy and governance. How can a CSR approach reconcile the SDGs and prosperity? CSR practices must adapt to ethical and ecological issues, sustainable growth, social equity and profitability, responsible production and fair trade (short supply circuits). CSR means integrating environmental issues into the company's policy and strategy.
Each company manager and his teams must conduct a preliminary audit of their business model and the development of social responsibility. This reflection concerns the creation of shared value through the solidarity and ecological transition.

We must aim for sustainable development in line with the SDGs by resolving ecological, societal and economic issues:

  • defense of gender equality
  • the challenge of climate change
  • fight against inequalities
  • reduction of energy waste
  • actions against the erosion of biodiversity
  • promoting energy production, technical innovation and economic growth
  • promoting the circular economy and supporting local agriculture.

The commitment of businesses to act in achieving the SDGs can take many forms. Businesses have a crucial role in the dissemination of the SDGs by working in synergy within their ecosystem with stakeholders: their customers, suppliers, local actors and business partners.

How is the African entrepreneurial fabric engaged? By implementing practices that meet the challenges of corporate social responsibility, companies are adopting an attitude and practices that are more ethical, responsible and sustainable.
To concretize this will to adapt the 17 SDGs in a CSR strategy, the leader of a company can turn to the label Engagé RSE and the international voluntary standard on the social responsibility of organizations ISO 26000.

What does responsible consumption and production mean?

In achieving the 17 SDGs, the twelfth post-2015 Sustainable Development Goal provides guidance on sustainable consumption and production. The main focus is on optimizing the use of resources and reducing the amount of food and other waste produced globally by businesses. But also to eliminate toxic waste and other pollutants in a responsible production strategy, i.e. to dispose of residues safely.

Responsible consumption means using goods and services in a different way, giving priority to basic needs, while reducing the amount of natural resources and toxic materials to a minimum. The challenge of these new consumption patterns is to meet the needs of future generations: water and energy consumption, food choices, waste production and transportation habits, etc.

Concept of ethical responsibility

The emerging ethical scope of the CSR concept in Africa allows for a better consideration of the expectations of different stakeholders, value chain actors and those expressed by customers and consumers. This concept encompasses an objective of sharing good practices

  • treatment and respect of the customer/consumer (to establish a relationship of trust between the company and its targets)
  • fair commercial relations, respect for the rights and duties of each party
  • exchange of good practices between employees
  • improvement of the standard of living and involvement in change at the local community level.

The company must concentrate its efforts in communicating the key elements of its ethical practices, to gain visibility and reputation on a local and international scale, in particular with the ISO standards.

ISO standards and achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals

In order to encourage African business and organizational leaders to use the SDGs in their CSR and CSO efforts, they need to take ownership of the SDG issues and benefits more quickly. The UN's 2021 report on the SDGs notes the following data

  • global unemployment rate 6.5% in 2020, in Sub-Saharan Africa 6.3%.
  • in 2020, too few countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have reported progress on consumption and production in national policies or action plans.

ISO Standards and SDGs

Mainly, ISO 45001:2018 Occupational health and safety management systems, ISO 13485:2016 Quality management systems and medical devices, ISO 14001:2015 Environmental management systems and ISO 26000:2010 Guidelines for social responsibility contribute to SDG 3. There are more than 3000 ISO standards to achieve SDG 3 by stakeholders.
Nearly 190 ISO standards for SDG 5, nearly 902 standards contribute to SDG 7, over 2500 standards to achieve SDG 8 and 13148 standards to achieve SDG 9.

For SDG 10, 554 ISO standards exist, 2759 standards contribute to SDG 12, the achievement of SDG 16 is concerned by 173 ISO standards. Finally, the achievement of SDG 17 concerns only 2 standards.

The commitment of companies to achieve the 17 SDGs should lead to a reflection on the many advantages and expectations of a voluntary approach to CSR policy. CSR can bring benefits in terms of performance (practices and management) to companies and organizations. By having put in place an action plan and transparent communication to apply the principles of sustainable development

We have real skills to guide you in the CSR process. Extrend Consulting accompanies you in this CSR approach in Africa and Madagascar with the means of the ambitions of the company managers.